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Former Yorktown Comptroller Asked to Return $77K to Town

Joan Goldberg, who filed a notice of petition on Oct. 9, had written a check for $76,959.63 to herself for accumulated unused vacation time. The town is asking for the money back.

Yorktown town board members are asking former town comptroller Joan Goldberg to return approximately $77,000 she wrote to herself in a check for accumulated unused vacation time. 

"We don't believe she is owed it," Yorktown Supervisor Michael Grace said. 

Grace said Goldberg, who served the town for the last 16 years and began a new job as the first-ever town administrator in North Castle last month, wrote the check for $76,959.63 on Sept. 11. He said Goldberg had accumulated 181.5 vacation days – at $424.05 per day, totalling $76,959.63.

Yorktown town board members discussed the issue in executive session on Sept. 26 and then voted in open session to pass a resolution authorizing town attorney Jeannette Koster to send a letter to Goldberg's attorney demanding she returns the money.

The vote was 4-1 with Councilman Nick Bianco voting against the resolution. 

"I'm comfortable with my 'No' vote," he said. "I pride myself to be fair and not capricious and arbitrary." 

Because of a notice of petition, which was filed by Goldberg's attorney on Oct. 9, Bianco refused to comment any further and disclose what the discussion entailed. (Check back with Patch on the filed notice of petition.)

Yorktown Councilman Dave Paganelli also refused to comment.

"It's a legal issue," he said. "I was advised not to comment."

Goldberg told Patch she filed the notice of petition after town board members passed the resolution on Sept. 26 characterizing her actions as "conversion of town funds."

"All I'm asking for is that they rescind that resolution and they rescind the finding that my actions were improper," Goldberg said.

She said she had a discussion with town board members on April 17 when she told them how much each town employee had in unused vacation time. The document contained data until the end of 2011 and at that time Goldberg had $72,506.60 in unused vacation time, she said. 

She stands by her actions and says she is owned the money – $76,959.63 before taxes and deductions, and $42,957.56 after taxes and deductions.

Earlier this year, based on a recommendation by Goldberg and an auditor, the town set up an employee benefit reserve fund, which had approximately $1 million in it, Grace said. He said Goldberg took the direct deposit for her unused vacation time out of that fund. 

"Having that fund set up provided her with a line to take out a direct deposit without coming to us," Grace said. 

Grace said in 1993, town board members at the time passed a resolution that created a policy stating that department heads had the same employee benefits as the members of the CSEA. In order for an employee or department head to roll over unused vacation time, the person needed approval from town board members first and no more than 35 days could be rolled over in total, he said.

"I did not make the rules," he said. "I inherited the rules. The rules were pretty clear."

Grace said there are two issues. One – Goldberg acted as an auditor of her own unused vacation time when she did the direct deposit and someone else should have been her auditor. Two – there were no resolutions by previous town boards allowing for any roll over of Goldberg's unused vacation time, Grace said. 

"I don't have anything on file," he said. "At this point, without any resolutions showing that she was allowed the roll over, then she is not entitled to it."

Grace said the town wants Goldberg, whom he said had the most amount of unused vacation time in town, to return the money. 

"No one is begrudging her to it if she is entitled, but she is not entitled to it," he said. 

Goldberg; however, said that policy, which was implemented before she was hired in 1996, did not set forth a procedure for the accumulation of vacation time. 

"Not one department head in 20 years has had a resolution passed authorizing the carry over of vacation," said Goldberg, naming one other former employee who cashed in $10,000 per year for eight years prior to retirement. "Why am I being treated differently?"

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claudia jones October 10, 2012 at 01:25 PM
What nerve! I bet folks would like different new town administrator in New Castle! Better keep a close eye the her, I wouldn't trust her decisions....
Jay Horgan October 10, 2012 at 03:01 PM
Hard to imagine that the ex comptroller can write her own check. Seems very inappropriate to say the least. What ever happened to the "use or lose it" scenario. Some one was asleep at the wheel. This certainly needs to be addressed and clarified for any future town employees going away with a golden parachute. Our local taxes simply cannot tolerate things like this happening.
Tim Gagliano October 10, 2012 at 06:50 PM
If the comptroller was able to write her own checks when she left office, how many checks did she previously write to herself or her friends or even businessss which may not have warranted a specific payment? Where there is smoke, there is fire. I feel like the town should look into her practices as comptroller, and , yes, I am aware of the irony that in doing so we will probably be forced to spend about $70,000 to find out.
bertie October 11, 2012 at 02:26 AM
For the record, I have never met Joan Goldberg, and wouldn't recognize her if I bumped into her shopping cart at Turco's. The Town Board knew about Goldberg's accrual of vacation time back in April or May, and chose not to address the issue then. And I note that there is no real denial that Goldberg that Goldberg did accrue these vacation days. Before jumping to conclusions and appearing to sully this woman's ethics, Yorktowners might want to get a handle on the actual laws or policies governing the comptroller's powers or duties. Personally, I'd like to see those laws or policies released to the public. Also, was the Goldberg payment consistent with or different from accumulated payments that have been made to other department heads? I think a competent administrator would have handled this personnel issue without seeming to impugn a comptroller who served this town for 16 years, and who only left when her resignation was requested by the administration and Town Board.
Frankie October 11, 2012 at 02:27 AM
First of all, when she resigned as most HR Dept.s would do is look at her sick days, accured time before her departure and make sure this was discussed with her exiting interview. Did anyone do that? Is there a HR Dept?
NorthCountyHound October 11, 2012 at 03:40 PM
The is why most private busineses force you take vacation and not accrue it. Use it or lose it. And the fact that she wrote a check to herself reeks to high heaven. This is an issue that normally would be disccused during an exit interview and if the town agreed, someone else would cut the check. Yorktown is rotten to the core. When you open the doors to town hall, it's like taking the lid off a septic tank.
Sami October 11, 2012 at 04:49 PM
If there was nothing wrong with it, why didnt she have someone clearly approve the check or actually write it? It looks very sneaky that she wrote this check to herself- which I still dont understand. Where is the accountability?! I know in my company the person who cuts the check cannot be the same person who signs the check AND any checks over $10,000 must be signed by two people. The lack of oversight is scary. It isnt anyones fault that she didnt take any vacation days in 16 years (which I personally find hard to believe), but I have never heard of getting reimbursed for vacation days you didnt use when you leave the position. Carrying over a certain amount to use- fine up to a limit- but its almost like being double paid. The company (town in this case) expects to pay you for every day that year- but if you take no vacation days, you get paid for that day in your regular pay check and then are taking additional pay for that day- so you are being paid twice for those days. Doesnt sound right and she should have to return the money.
Jay Horgan October 11, 2012 at 06:56 PM
If the ex comptroller felt that this in fact was duely owed to her, there should have been no reason for her to write her own check. She could have gone to the Town Board, or Supervisor and requested the Town to approve the payment. After this payment request was properly reviewed, It then should be approved by someone of authority, other than herself If everything was in order and her unused vacation days were reviewed and confirmed, this scenario would never have taken place. This payment seems inapproriate to say the least, How can a Comptroller write their own check, It simply does not sit well with me.
The Real Yorktown Town Hall October 12, 2012 at 12:28 AM
The comptroller wrote her own paycheck for 16 years. Town hall was put on notice that there is no policy that forbids department heads from rolling over sick and vacation time. A fund was set up to cover that liability (it's not just Joan Goldberg Yorktown owes such accrued time). This is a personal vendetta. Town hall will spend at least $140,000 to try and claw back the $70,000 plus she was owed. We're in agreement that the roll-over policy is bad fiscal policy. Why doesn't the town board pass a resolution declaring the practice over and vacate or grandfather the exact same vacation and sick pay owed to other officials? Good question. Why did they approve a 1 million dollar reserve to cover this very real liability? Good question.
Francis T McVetty October 14, 2012 at 05:27 PM
From reading all this I have concluded that we need to look very carefully at the procedures that brought us to this point. Some thing is wrong when someone can accumulate 16 years of "lost' vacation time. How many others are there now working for the town accumulating lost vacation time?
Francis T McVetty October 14, 2012 at 05:30 PM
@The Real Yorktown Town Hall, It should NOT cost $140,000 to resolve the issue. In fact we do have a FULL time lawyer on premises, don't we? Have her lawyer call our lawyer and work out something.

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