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Audit alleges overbilling

"A city secretary was fired last year for alleged irregularities in invoices for work done earlier under a personal services contract. The irregularities were disclosed in an audit of the city books for the 1998 fiscal year, released by the state Auditor's Office last week.But whether or not the woman - then under contract as a secretary for the Civil Service Commission, and later hired briefly as a part-time secretary in the mayor's office - was paid more than $22,000 for work not performed remains in dispute.Under contract from July 1997 through October 1999, the woman was authorized to conduct examinations of applicants for police department positions. She was also to score the examinations and assemble a variety of application materials.But invoices totaling $22,000 were turned in and at least some payments made without supporting documentation - to the point that state auditors could not verify that much of the work was actually performed.The irregularities were such that for one six-month period, the woman would have had to work 10 hours a day, seven days a week to equal the hours billed, the audit found.Mayor Dwight Sutton said this week that upon learning of the discrepancies in 1999, his office took fairly prompt action and after review, the woman's contract and employment were terminated.Work billed that the woman could not verify through documentation was not reimbursed, Sutton said.It's not like she invoiced and got paid for fictitious work, he said. We did not pay her $22,000 for 'no work.' Some of that (which) she invoiced, we didn't pay.The woman was also alleged to have taken city equipment, including a cellular telephone and pager, for personal use that was then billed the city. Police were contacted about the matter, Sutton said, but it was not prosecuted.Mark Rapozo of the state Auditor's Office said he believed the full $22,000 was in fact paid out by the city. It was unclear this week whether there were legitimate invoices on top of those discussed in the audit.In a formal response to the audit, city officials said all personal services contracts will be overseen and verified by a supervisor or director, and that accounts-payable controls are being tightened. Other than the billing irregularities, the city's books were in order, Rapozo said. The only other black mark for the city was the fact that the financial statements required for the audit were submitted to the state after the May deadline - for the 17th time since 1981.It's not an area of which I'm particularly proud, Sutton said.Rapozo noted that the 1999 financial records were submitted on time. Given the history there, that's quite an accomplishment, and we want to recognize that, he said."

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