BY CHERYL SLAVIN
In the wake of a recent audit finding numerous bookkeeping inconsistencies and inaccuracies for the years of 2011 and 2012, the commissioners of the Tallman Fire District have decided to continue investigating its financial records—and the actions of its former treasurer—dating back to 2009. The commissioners have also contacted the Rockland County District Attorney’s Office about their findings so far.
Bradley Pinsky, the attorney hired by the board to head the investigation, states that the DA’s office has since subpoenaed all of the records dating back as far as 2009. Those records, like the ones for 2011 and 2012, he says, are in such a state of disarray that his office is spending many hours a day to sort through them in order to understand what may have taken place. There are, among other irregularities, unsigned payment vouchers, vouchers without invoices attached, and instances where the check amount paid out is more than what the voucher calls for.
The attorneys are particularly concerned with expenditures that appear to be for improper purposes. As in 2011 and 2012, the treasurer, Roberta Doremus, submitted vouchers for reimbursement of her internet charges. Pinsky invited the Rockland County Times to the Fire District office where he produced a sample of four such vouchers, each one filled out differently. Only two had invoices attached, both clearly for the treasurer’s personal internet, even though one voucher stated it was for “Comm Office Internet.” Two of the vouchers were not even signed by the commissioners. Pinsky expressed his continued concern that the inconsistent bookkeeping, as well as the personal invoices and lack of signatures, indicated the treasurer was paying herself for personal internet service with Fire District funds.
In addition, Pinsky produced documentation that indicated Doremus was well aware that only active fire department members and no one else, including members of the Ladies’ Auxilary, were entitled to the department’s life insurance policy. Yet, during her tenure she had signed herself up for those benefits. She also appears, without notice or authorization from the Board, to have invested in annuities for certain beneficiaries of the department’s pension program, including her husband.
Eugene Fox, one of the commissioners, was present at the office as well and confirmed to this paper that the Board continues to have grave concerns about what transpired during Doremus’s term of employment. Four of the five commissioners voted to continue the audit back in September. The fifth commissioner, Robert Doremus, is the former treasurer’s son and did not vote because of his personal relationship to the subject of the inquiry. The vote also authorized Pinsky’s outreach to the District Attorney Office.
Pinsky further explained that his office is attempting to organize the records before turning them over to the DA, and that they hope to continue to do so until the investigation is complete. However, he also expressed the fear that if the composition of the Board changes after the election coming up this December 9, they might not be able to.
Commissioners Mike Rosenblum and Mike Aguilar are up for reelection. Both support the continuing investigation. Fox stated, however, that their opponents, Scott Meier and Don Moresi, are close associates with the Doremus family and might therefore oppose it if they are elected. Fox was especially worried about the candidacy of Scott Meier, a former Tallman Fire Chief who was suspended in 2009 after an internal investigation found that he had engaged in sexual harassment of another fire department member’s female relative.
Pinsky and Fox both assert that in addition to the Rockland District Attorney, the Fire District’s finances are being investigated both at the state and the federal level. Pinsky states that the Comptroller’s Office has said it will hold off on any further action, however, until the Rockland DA’s investigation is complete. The federal inquiry, according to Pinsky, is linked to the on-going FBI probe of the Town of Ramapo finances.
In September Doremus contested the notion she’d committed any infractions similar to those alleged by the district leaders. She said that she would be able to clarify any confusion as to the purchases and that when she left office in March she boxed up every document in her possession and gave them to the board chairman. She stated that she does not know why any vouchers or other documents would be missing now and also noted that with the board’s approval she had been using the services of an outside party, “Professional Innovative Accounting Program,” for the reconciliation of all bank statements.