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At it again: Utica Mayor and Comptroller spar over disbursed funds

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - A war of words is brewing at Utica City Hall between the Mayor and the city's Comptroller as to who is responsible for hundreds of dollars in disbursed city funds.

Utica Mayor Dave Roefaro sent out a release to the media Friday claiming that a payment of more than $100,000 was released in error, to a local business who had applied for a stimulus funding loan that was to be closed upon next week.

According to Mayor Roefaro, a check for $150,000 was mistakenly mailed, and cashed by a local business working with the city on an expansion and renovation project.

Comptroller Michael Cerminaro said that business is listed as "421 Broad Street, LLC." The LLC business listed at that address is currently Cobblestone Disposal Services.

In the release, Roefaro said the business owner was scheduled to close on a $150,000 stimulus funding loan sometime next Wednesday.

"He was surprised to discover that his loan payment was mailed to him by Cerminaro's Office," the Mayor said.

Roefaro said that the check was only returned due to "The honesty of the individual and the diligence of the mayor's staff."

However, Comptroller Cerminaro said this is not exactly how it happened.

Cerminaro said that the check had been issued by the city's Accounts Payable department, and that the city's Urban and Economic Development department had completely circumvented his office, as well as procedure, by skipping over him and sending the claim to Accounts Payable - where a check was issued.

"There was no 'accounting error'," Cerminaro said. "I was never directly contacted by the Mayor's Office or anyone from the Department of Urban and Economic and asked to hold this check. Had I been, I would have done so."

According to the Comptroller, the proper way to handle ERP loan checks that are to be given at a closing is that an official from the Department of Urban and Economic will contact the City Comptroller directly to discuss how the matter will be handled. Cerminaro said that at the same time, "They will request that the Comptroller hold the check(s) until the actual time of the closing."

"None of this was done," Cerminaro said.

In the Mayor's media release, Mayor Roefaro said that a reimbursement check has been issued by the city, "Catalyzed by Mayor Roefaro and other officials in the Economic Development Department."

"I believe this situation clearly demonstrates the need for an unbiased third party appraisal of City of Utica finances showing how our money has been allocated in the past," Mayor Roefaro said. "I can't keep acting as the Mayor and the Comptroller."

However, Comptroller Cerminaro said that it was actually only by his discovery of the error that the business was contacted and the money was returned. Cerminaro said that when he discovered the error, an official from the Department of Urban and Economic Development was contacted and immediate reimbursement was sought.

"This is simply an attempt by the Mayor to divert attention away from the fact that there is not and has not been any real economic development in this city since he took office."

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