Audit report released

Poor management and fiscal irresponsibility in the Liverpool Central School District led to the inappropriate spending of about $250,000 of taxpayer money, according to a report released by the state comptroller's office last week.

The comptroller commenced the audit of the district last summer as part of an effort to evaluate the financial practices of all 834 districts, BOCES organizations and charter schools in the state. The audit revealed mishandling of funds, overpayment of benefits and weak controls.

"There was a complete breakdown of financial controls at the Liverpool Central School District," said Dennis Tompkins, spokesman for Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, in a statement. "That breakdown resulted in more than $250,000 in questionable spending. These are taxpayer dollars. Lax oversight is not acceptable."

The current board and superintendent placed the blame for the poor financial practices on the former administration of John Cataldo and on two suspended employees.

"I have to say that I'm also in a sense relieved, because it now brings out into the open a lot of things that we have not been privileged to discuss and I hope that the community now will get a better picture of what we've been dealing with as a board and administration," said board president J. Mark Lawson. "We have spent an inordinate amount of time in the last few years seeking to extricate ourselves from a mess that we inherited, and it is frustrating to have to spend so much time correcting mistakes that are rooted in the past, time that could better be spent focusing on the challenges that we face today and the direction that we've set for the future."

Cataldo was dismayed by the allegations.

"I'm very upset by it," he said. "I served that district for 10 years. To have this come up after I'm six years out it's very upsetting."

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