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Warrant: Accused Norwalk assistant clerk exploited porous office procedures

Norwalk Town Clerk’s Office employees have been dealing with the criminal investigation of a co-worker for a year.

NORWALK, Conn. – Accusations against former Norwalk assistant Town Clerk Debbie Troy – who is facing a trial on charges that she stole money from her office – revolve around “clerk’s fees,” altered time cards and copying machine revenues.

The clerk’s fees were used on occasion to take town clerk employees for a night out in New York City under former Town Clerk Andy Garfunkel, Troy is quoted as saying in the affidavit on file in Stamford Superior Court. The affidavit, written by Det. William Maloney, notes lax accounting procedures in the office under Garfunkel, which Town Clerk Rick McQuaid was very open to tightening up, the affidavit says.

Those practices included shared logins to the system and three cash registers left open all day, with multiple employees having access to them. Troy is accused in the affidavit of changing her own time cards, and it is noted that there was no supervisory verification of time cards.

Troy was arrested Oct. 30 and charged with larceny first degree. Since then, charges of illegal alteration of records, forgery second degree and tampering with physical evidence were added by the State’s Attorney. The justification for those charges is not contained in the criminal case folder. Members of the prosecutors office declined to comment.

Troy has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Troy was fired in June. She filed a grievance; an arbitration hearing scheduled for December was postponed.

Troy is expected in court on Thursday, according to the state judicial website. Attorney Eugene Zingaro, Troy’s lawyer, did not return a Friday afternoon phone call requesting comment.

Working from home

Debbie Troy, as shown in her Norwalk Police mug shot.

Troy, a 1989 Brien McMahon High School graduate, studied the principals of banking at Southern Connecticut State college and worked for GE Capital as program coordinator before coming to work for the city, the affidavit states. She began her career as a a teller at Norwalk Savings and worked her way up to escrow specialist in loan department.

Troy began working in the town clerk’s office in December 2003 as assistant town clerk during Garfunkel’s tenure, the affidavit states.

She worked from home from March 2010 to September 2010 with a city laptop, able to access the city’s system. She recorded military discharges into records, a project Garfunkel gave her.

She was out again from May 2012 to August 2012 due to injuries suffered in a car accident, the affidavit states. She worked from home again, this time without access to a city computer. Garfunkel had her working on a vital records assignment, the affidavit states.

Troy accused of stealing money from a copying machine

McQuaid is Troy’s chief accuser in the affidavit, although the document states that the other assistant town clerk, Jill Champaigne, had brought the ongoing thefts to his attention.

“McQuaid was confident that every time Troy had voided the coin copier from the report she had taken whatever case she had retrieved from the cash/coin receptacle and kept if for herself,” the affidavit states, in reference to the complaint McQuaid filed Nov. 27, 2012.

The copying machine in question was in the vault. The fee was $1 per copy; Troy and Champaigne alternated the responsibility, taking turns staying late to do the accounting for that. There was generally more than $100 in the copier, according to the affidavit.

McQuaid and Champaigne became suspicious after running the old and new office accounting systems concurrently on Nov. 14, 2012. The results did not match, the affidavit states.

They checked other dates and realized that, on numerous reports, the coin copier line had been removed, the affidavit states. McQuaid thought there might be a glitch but found it happening much more than he thought.

On Nov. 30 he could not get the totals to add up. Troy was on paid leave due to a reported back injury.

The following Monday, Dec. 3, Troy was back and McQuaid asked her to reconcile the work, the affidavit states. She balanced the paperwork – blaming a check that had not been entered – and went upstairs with the reports. While she was gone, McQuaid found a voided coin copier receipt for $167 in her wastebasket, the affidavit states.

“This should not be possible and lacks a legitimate business purpose,” the affidavit states (page 14),

Later that day, Troy “generated a revision to the aforementioned void receipt to document ‘cash returned’ in the amount of $160.00 and $7.00 was submitted as ‘copies,’” the affidavit states. “The term ‘copies’ refers to money generated from copies made at the computer terminals in front of the office. Consequently, $160.00 was missing from the day’s receipts. It is the City’s conclusion that the money was taken by Ms. Troy. Only Ms. Troy had access to the money, and the ability to generate and/or regenerate the documents to conceal the fact the money was missing.”

Champaigne and McQuaid found that Troy had altered reports submitted by other employees, the affidavit states. Those alterations matched coin copier receipts that had been removed from the report, it says.

Norwalk Town Clerk Rick McQuaid.

“As the investigation went on the Town Clerk office provided to Police, Personnel and the Forensic Accountants all of the backup that they requested,” McQuaid is quoted as writing. “This includes going through all the transactions between 2008 and 2012. In putting together all the needed backup, Debbie Troy was in work every day that one of the different transactions in question took place, and never appears to happen when she is absent from work.”

Orr interviewed Troy on Jan. 2, 2013, at police headquarters, the affidavit states. When he told her he was investigating “what appeared to be questionable accounting practices in the Town Clerk’s offices, she laughed and said, “I do all of the accounting,” according to the affidavit.

She explained that copy money might not add up “because people use quarters (which they typically don’t count), they use special debit cards that they can put money on and use at the copiers,” the affidavit states. Some days people don’t use the copiers, she said. Sometimes she or Champaigne were busy and they didn’t empty out the coin copier, lumping two days into one, she said, according to the affidavit.

She further explained that everyone in the office knew her login was Debbie and her password was Debbie, according to the affidavit. The same went for Champaigne’s or McQuaid’s logins and passwords, she said. People use her computer a lot because it was the only one with a printer attached to it, she said, according to the affidavit.

She denied stealing money and said she would not suspect anyone else in the office, the affidavit states. She offered to allow her bank records to be inspected.

Maloney was informed on May 3 that Troy had retained Zingaro, and that she would not be subjecting herself to further interviews.

Other voided transactions alleged

“Voids were appearing for not only coin copiers, but for other transactions such as land recordings, death certificates, mortgages and vital copies,” McQuaid is quoted as stating in written testimony he gave in July. “The total amounts collected on certain transactions that were paid by Funeral Home checks were now showing cash returns to Funeral Homes. This was a practice that we did not do. In reviewing the voids the receipts I noticed that when a Funeral Director came in he would ask for certified copies, burial permit, and cremation certificate. He or she would then pay for it by check, get a receipt and leave. Hours later there would be a void showing cash had been returned to the customer. This would not be possible since no Funeral Directors have time to sit around and wait (hours) to get their cash back.”

He continued, “Another way of taking from voided receipts was through the process of altering Land Record recordings. This would be done by changing the agent for collecting on a transaction from cash to charge. Charge accounts in our office consist of IRS, State of Connecticut, City of Norwalk and divisions of each. This would be on mortgages, releases or any other land transactions. Changing to a charge account would allow money to look as if it was returned to the agent. The State of Connecticut, city of Norwalk and IRS are not in the Mortgage business thus they would never need to have transactions of this type, nor have it sit around and wait for us to return cash to them.”

Clerk’s fees allegedly used for partying

“Clerk’s fees” are described in the affidavit as the discrepancy between the amount a check was written for and the amount owed. There was a long standing practice of not giving people change in that event, the affidavit states. If someone had a check written for more than actual charge, they were given the option of writing a new check or forfeiting the change.

Troy told McQuaid that the clerk’s fees were kept in an envelope in the clerk’s office, according to the affidavit. McQuaid said Troy had told him that when the clerks fees money got up to $100 she would take it upstairs to the comptroller’s office and have it put into a petty cash account, but one day, when she was not at work, McQuaid took the money upstairs himself and was told that no such account existed, the affidavit states. He then realized that money was missing, and blamed Troy.

Maloney interviewed Troy on April 27.

“We discussed the system used to open and close each day’s financial transactions,” he writes in the affidavit. “I pointed out irregularities and lack of controls in the procedure. During the discussion, Troy admitted that there were a lack of controls compared to when she worked in the financial field and said the system was already in place by Town Clerk Andy Garfunkel when she arrived and that was how she was shown to do it.”

The clerk’s fees system made her a little uncomfortable but that was the way Garfunkel wanted it, she said, according to the affidavit. She said that money was used for balancing the registers and for making purchases for the office. She “Said it was used for buying lunch for the office at time(s), that during Garfunkel tenure it was used for several members of the office to go out to dinners, to NYC in which one time a limo was hired, but other times, they took the train,” the affidavit states.

Clerks employees went to Bubba Gumps, PF Chang’s and Ambrosia, the affidavit states.

Troy and Champaigne began keeping a handwritten log of the money, the affidavit quotes Troy as saying.

“She said that her and Jill, the other Assistant Clerk, became nervous about it because the money accrued, at times, to a few hundred dollars and that at first there were no records kept about what the fees were used for or where they went,” the affidavit states.

Maloney asked why the cash was kept downstairs instead of being sent upstairs with the rest of the money. Troy is quoted in the affidavit as saying that Garfunkel didn’t want the clerk’s fees cash going upstairs and had reprimanded her for sending it up there once.

In explaining why there were four entries labeled “to petty cash” in her handwriting, Troy told Maloney that they had a petty cash account in the comptrollers office. Those entries, from between April and August 2012, totaled $650, according to the affidavit.

Troy is accused of stealing that money, part of the $3,336.47 the state says it can prove is missing, leading to the charge of larceny 1st degree.

Troy accused of falsifying time sheets

“It was discovered that Troy had made an inordinate amount of adjustments to her payroll crediting herself with time, or changing vacation days taken from a vacation day to a work day, giving herself back vacation day,” Maloney writes in the affidavit. “… I spoke with both Rick McQuade and Andrew Garfunkle about the changes and both said that although Troy did have authorization to do her own payroll, and change or adjust time that she had worked for changes in schedule or working extra, neither one gave her permission to abuse and exploit the system the way Troy did or take the time that she had not worked or was entitled to.”

The total for that is $954.47, the affidavit states.

Town clerk’s office reportedly cleaned up

Troy is accused of stealing $1,732 with unauthorized voids, altering cash records to conceal thefts.

The procedures used in the town clerk’s office were studied by Stephen Pedneault, CPA/CFE, a forensic accountant, the affidavit states. Pedneault said there were three cash drawers open throughout the day, with multiple employees able to use them. The copier’s counter could be reset, he said. There were accounts billed through the clerk’s office; payments were received by the comptroller’s office. There was no reconciliation done between the two offices, the affidavit states.

“No formal process existed to require all employee time to be reviewed and approved for every payroll period prior to processing employee payroll,” Pedneault is quoted as saying.

McQuaid “has been very responsive to suggestions made for improvements,” Pedneault is quoted as saying.

Norwalk Personnel Administrator John Schlosser is quoted in the affidavit as saying McQuaid came to see him on Christmas Eve 2012 to tell him of the police investigation. Schlosser quotes McQuaid that he suspected Troy of stealing between $1,500 and $2,000 per month for four years.”

McQuaid said last week that he did not recall saying that.

He declined to comment on the allegations against Troy, as it is an ongoing criminal investigation, but did comment on the office’s procedures.

“No doubt in my mind – we are a better department,” he said. “Other changes are now being put forth that will make it an even better place.”

Garfunkel responded to an email by saying that he had no comment at this time.

Comments

14 responses to “Warrant: Accused Norwalk assistant clerk exploited porous office procedures”

  1. NPS Parent

    Kudos to Mr. McQuaid!! how can we get him onto the BOE?

    How can we get Mr. Pedneault to investigate the $4million missing from the BOE?? Forgive me if I have missed who is being held responsible for that one…

  2. WOW!

    WOW! Imagine what Mr. Pedneault might find if he performed the same accounting forensics work with NEON! Their new interim Executive Director and their Board should contract this gentleman immediately. Taxpayers’ money, hundreds of thousands if not millions, has been mishandled (or worse, perhaps stolen) and Chiquita, Joe Mann, and Pat Wilson Pheanious are still walking around. If an accounting forensics expert were to go there, these three characters would be blaming each other (NEON-style) like there’s no tomorrow.

  3. anonymous

    Troy had authorization to do her own payroll under both Garfunkle and McQuaid? Why would any public employee in City Hall do their own payroll beyond clocking in and out? Does this happen in any other department in Norwalk City Hall? Can someone find out?

  4. LWitherspoon

    “She recorded military discharges into records, a project Garfunkel gave her.”
    .
    Why does recording military discharges into records fall under the purview of the Town Clerk’s office?

  5. Jlightfield

    Modern photocopiers have an internal counter that can’t be reset that is used for determine warranty issues as part of service contracts. It would be interesting to see what the machine life cycle counts are compared to the payment counts.
    .
    I wonder why the finance department never was interested in cash transactions in this department and more importantly what is the cash transaction policy for the City overall?

  6. Just Wondering..

    It appears that we may now know why Garfunkel ran that hearted mayoral campaign?

  7. anonymous

    Good questions from Jlightfield, what is cash transaction policy for the City?

    What other City employees besides those in the Clerk’s Office are allowed to do their payroll and account for their own sick and vacation days? Why isn’t a payroll company handling?

  8. Mr Norwalk Ct

    This is not the first payroll issue Norwalk has had. Some years back police officers were working the famous side jobs, on duty, and out sick all at the same time.

  9. NorwalkVoter

    “She was out again from May 2012 to August 2012 due to injuries suffered in a car accident, the affidavit states. She worked from home again, this time without access to a city computer. Garfunkel had her working on a vital records assignment, the affidavit states.” This can’t be accurate since Garfunkel left office in November of 2011.

  10. @NorwalkVoter. I quoted directly from the affidavit. It does say “May 2012 to August 2012” and “on a vital record assignment given to her by Garfunkel.” Obviously there is a discrepancy.

  11. @NoN,
    …”Southern Connecticut State college”
    *
    Southern is a university, not a college.

    1. Mark Chapman

      @Irishgirl

      The story quoted what was written in the warrant. Editing a legal document is treading on thin ice, and not something that is recommended. However, thank you for informing us and our readers.

  12. “…that during Garfunkel tenure it was used for several members of the office to go out to dinners, to NYC in which one time a limo was hired, but other times, they took the train,” the affidavit states.
    Clerks employees went to Bubba Gumps, PF Chang’s and Ambrosia, the affidavit states.”
    *
    Wow, Garfunkel must have been some gem of a boss…treating the department to nights out in the city, for FUN, on the public’s dime. Even hiring limos for them!
    Whatta guy…
    *
    I guess the buck doesn’t stop at city hall. It made its way into OTHER CITIES, generating income for those workers and establishments — Just NOT IN Norwalk! Unbelievable.

  13. Debbie Downer

    To think that Garfunkel would have been our Mayor. YIKES! He couldn’t control the Town Clerk’s office, never mind taking the big seat!

    I think Garfunkel was just trying to beef up his resume!

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