Records Gone Missing

Former Human Resources Department staff accused

    An audit of the East Hampton Town Human Services Department, commissioned by the town board last October, has turned up numerous instances in which supervision and records were lacking. A report released last week states that there had been “extensive and pervasive destruction of records.” The report, from the accounting firm Nawrocki Smith, also states that records were missing from sealed boxes, as well as files.
    The missing documents, Len Bernard, the town budget manager, said at a town board meeting last Thursday, were apparently destroyed by outgoing department administrators prior to their retirement last fall. Human Services Department staff members, he said, had “confirmed that in the final weeks documents were shredded in great quantities.”
    Due to the destruction of records, the auditors were unable to fully analyze the workings of the department or to determine whether services for which the town had received grant money were provided. The report rates “inherent risk” and “control risk” as high, and states that administration of the department “needs improvement.”            That records are missing has been reported to the offices of the state comptroller and the county district attorney, Mr. Bernard said at a town board meeting last Thursday night, as he outlined the report.
     Among the 26 problems cited in the report was that the department lacked a license to provide psychotherapy counseling but had offered it. Diane Patrizio, the current director of the department, has discontinued these services while seeking proper licensing, and has acted on several of the auditors’ other recommendations, Mr. Bernard said.
    While neither the report nor Mr. Bernard named names, a letter to Supervisor Bill Wilkinson, which accompanied the report, said, also without using  names, that the auditors had tried and failed on three separate occasions to interview the former Human Services Department director, Edna Steck, the former youth services supervisor, Audrey Gaines, and the family counseling supervisor, as well as a former town board liaison to the department. Neither did Ms. Steck or Ms. Gaines, nor Craig Karlebach, the family counseling supervisor, return calls from The Star this week.
    They were among 12 employees who retired at the same time as the town board made deep cuts in the department’s budget.
    A New York State “records retention and disposal schedule” outlines what records should be retained, and for how long. It requires, for example, that documents related to grants, client files for senior services, and budget preparation files be maintained for six years. Other “routine internal reports” — travel schedules, memos, and the like — are not required to be retained.
    In the report, the auditors said 36 empty file folders had been found with labels such as “Adolescent Pregnancy,” “Annual Beach Party,” “Youth Speak Out,” “Memorandums,” Resumes,”