Application to appoint Woo village treasurer to audit committee rejected
The agenda for the board meeting on Thursday, May 20 included the appointment of the village treasurer, Irene Woo, to the finance and audit committee, for the remainder of this municipal year (until April 4, 2022). But, surprisingly, after discussion, the Council voted 5 to 3 against the nomination.
Garden City Mayor Cosmo Veneziale and Deputy Mayor Tom O’Brien were in the minority in that board vote, and the three directors who were serving terms on the board ahead of the March election – trustee John Delany, Trustee Colleen Foley and Trustee Louis Minuto – each offered comments stating concerns about a possible conflict of interest with Treasurer Woo’s position on executive staff.
Trustee Foley said she preferred the “clear separation of church and state” in this scenario, in case there were any audit topics and discussions in which Ms Woo would have to recuse herself if the subject concerned the work performance of the department. she supervises.
Administrator Delany served on the finance and audit committee during his six years on the board and supported Treasurer Woo. He commented that she works hard and that her department is producing great results. Mayor Veneziale responded to Delany’s initial concern and said he recommended Woo be appointed to the Committee, as she will be able to provide valuable input and information to committee members during the review. municipal finances.
“There may be situations where she has to recuse herself, but I discussed this with the lawyer from our village and with Irene Woo herself and I think that would be a very good position for her,” said the mayor.
“I think Irene is a senior village treasurer and works with the finance and audit committee, sometimes she’s there, and it’s at the discretion of the committee. I think we need to ensure that this committee continues to separate itself from someone who is the treasurer rather than overseeing operations. I am concerned that the treasurer is on this committee because the auditors come to the committee and report to the board of directors, not to the staff. This obscures the lines, ”noted Trustee Foley.
Deputy Mayor O’Brien noted that in corporate structures he has experienced many opportunities with CFOs and treasurers participating in any discussion and meeting of an organization’s audit committee. But administrator Louis Minuto asked if there were any examples of municipalities performing their audit functions in this way, and noted that Woo’s appointment would be a step backwards in separating the roles of village staff. and oversight of operations. He also deduced that it would be both uncomfortable and inefficient for audit committee members not to be able to have fluid discussions if Woo had to come out in the middle of various reviews and topics, only to go back.
“Taking part in conversations and criticism is one thing and being a member of the audit committee is two different things – Irene has always been a member. I have to cite the biggest example from the Roslyn School District – a lot of people went to jail because there weren’t any. a clear separation between the board and how the committees were structured and how financial decisions and purchases were handled. Even the auditors were influenced by their treasurer / assistant superintendent of finance. It was a legendary example of not having a separation in the oversight of public money, rather than having people there. And of course, we want our treasurer to be involved in interactions with the finance and audit committee. Becoming a member of this committee is a very different vein of responsibility, ”said Trustee Foley.
Village administrator Terry Digan said he had worked closely with Treasurer Woo since being elected and then sworn in in early April. “Irene has been an incredible resource for me as I have stepped into this position within the past two months. I think we discussed this point as not being a conflict of interest, so I don’t foresee that to be true in his case, ”Digan said. Mayor Veneziale added that he shares this opinion and that is why he recommended her for appointment to the committee.
Village attorney Peter Bee clarified that the village finance and audit committee has no power of government and is not authorized to run things.
“It is a vector of communication between the external auditors and the board of directors, and the Committee is also often responsible for monitoring the activities of the village financial officers. There is no legal conflict of interest, although, generally speaking, it is not safe to have a party watching this individual as well then this individual as a part of himself. However, as the mayor pointed out, it is possible for that person to step aside and recuse themselves, or to step down when the committee’s review activities are taking place. There are aspects of committee oversight in which the treasurer should not be involved – for example, as the committee chooses to vote before submitting its reports to the board. In this case, Treasurer Woo could choose to recuse herself from a vote based on her own performance and the accuracy of her reporting to this board. “
As the Board vote was unsuccessful, counsel for Bee Village indicated that there could be another Board vote on a corresponding agenda item, “at any time.”
Bee recommended that the Board take a first step by considering “an elaboration of the tasks of the Finance and Audit Committee”. He said this would help identify any conflicts of interest that might arise.
“If a conflict were to arise, it is not a legal conflict and it is a conflict in which Ms. Woo could still choose to recuse herself in certain circumstances. It becomes a political decision of the board, ”said Bee.
Mayor Veneziale closed the discussion after the “no” vote by stating that the directors will reconsider the issue.