State Comptroller: Snowmobile Association Treasurer misdirected grooming funds

By WKTV News

HERKIMER COUNTY, N.Y. (WKTV) - New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli says that after an audit by his office, they have believe the Treasurer for the Herkimer County Snowmobile Association falsified documentation and improperly used his dual authority as the association's treasurer and president of a trail maintenance entity to redirect funds from one snowmobile club to his own.

According to audit released today by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, Association Treasurer Pat Deyle admitted that he falsified grooming logs and submitted them in an effort to collect the maximum aid allotted in Herkimer County.

The finding were referred to the Herkimer County District Attorney's Office.

"The Office of Parks and Historic Preservation needs to provide better oversight to make sure these funds go to the proper clubs," DiNapoli said.

According to DiNapoli, the State Office of Parks and Historic Preservation receives about $5 million annually in aid from snowmobile registration fees and penalties that individuals pay to the Department of Motor Vehicles. The money is distributed to "sponsors," such as counties and municipalities, who administer snowmobile trail services. Parks uses an allocation formula to provide funds to sponsors based on the number of trail miles and characteristics of each area. Trail maintenance entities (TMEs) are responsible for maintaining the trails. Sponsors can function as TMEs and do the trail maintenance themselves, or they can contract with a snowmobile club or association that will act as a TME.

DiNapoli says his office's auditors found that Deyle improperly used his dual authority as association Treasurer and President of the Ilion Snowdrifters club to redirect funds from the Long Pond Snow Sled Club to the Snowdrifters. The association acted as an intermediary that received the funds from the local sponsor, Herkimer County, and distributed them to the clubs. Deyle redirected the funds by falsifying support for the maximum amount of grooming fees on behalf of Long Pond for both the 2009-10 and 2008-09 seasons, and retaining a portion of the funds he received for his own club, without Long Pond's knowledge. In 2009-10, Deyle requested and received $5,518 on behalf of Long Pond, of which he paid only $4,385 to Long Pond.

Similarly, DiNapoli says that in 2008-09, Deyle received $6,600, of which he paid $4,300 to Long Pond. A total of $3,433 improperly went to his club over the two years. DiNapoli's auditors also found that eight local sponsors improperly assessed administrative fees on TMEs totaling more than $48,397 for the three years ending March 31, 2011.

Parks guidance expressly states that administrative costs are not reimbursable under the program. However, auditors found Tioga and Chautauqua counties withheld administrative fees from the upfront 70 percent payments to TMEs. The fees totaled more than $6,600 for the three years ending March 31, 2011.

Auditors identified another six local sponsors - Chenango, Orleans, Cortland, Madison, Niagara and Otsego counties - that, subsequent to disbursing the Parks funds to TMEs, improperly charged the TMEs administrative fees totaling more than $41,780 for the three years ending March 31, 2011.

In contrast to other TMEs reviewed, all of which used unpaid volunteers, Franklin County Snowmobile Association paid its trail groomer operators $79,885 for fiscal years 2008-09 and 2009-10 combined, with pay rates ranging from $12 per hour for groomer operators to $15 per hour for the President and Vice President. Of this $54,984 was paid to the Franklin Association's top officers - $23,044 to the President and $31,940 to the Vice President.

The audit recommends that the Office of Parks and Historic Preservation:

*Take corrective action to ensure the affected club received the funds it was entitled to; conversely, recover any improperly-received funds or adjust future payments accordingly.

*Develop and communicate clear guidance to local sponsors and TMEs about administrative fees being ineligible for Fund reimbursement.

*Provide stronger program oversight by assessing the effects that sponsor and TME practices such as using paid groomer operators have on the effectiveness and value provided to the snowmobiling public. Use the results to monitor and communicate about identified risk areas.

For a copy of the report, it can be found online here.:

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