Audit finds additional $101k missing from Erie County Clerk’s Office

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — An audit conducted by the Erie County Comptroller’s Office has uncovered over $101,000 missing from the Clerk’s Office. The discovery builds upon roughly $13,000 that was already confirmed unaccounted for.

The original $13,670.15 in cash discrepancies from January and December 2022, which were described in an audit report filed on June 30 and confirmed, are currently under investigation by the Erie County Sheriff’s Department and the State Comptroller’s Office.

The additional $101,045.60 unaccounted for was discovered while looking into the remaining months of 2022, as well as the first six months of this year.

Through an analysis, the comptroller’s office confirmed that at least 83 government documents were tampered with in some form during January and December 2022. The audit said that 54 daily fee deposit reports for each day in question were altered, with the original monetary amounts manually removed and replaced with a similar, but not exact, font.

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Additionally, 29 deposit tickets, which are used to confirm amounts deposited into the bank, were found to have been swapped out and replaced, as well as lacking a unique notation from a cashier, during the same period.

The audit stated that it was unable to rule out the possibility of theft for any of the reviewed transactions, and that it’s possible one or more individuals within the Clerk’s Office altered or attempted to alter official government documents after the audit for the original $13,000 had commenced.

The Comptroller’s Office also called on the Sheriff’s Office to investigate the additional $101,000 missing.

Erie County Clerk Michael Kearns said he has “grave concerns” regarding the Comptroller’s Office “disclosing information pertaining to an ongoing investigation.”

“This public disclosure has potentially jeopardized months of legitimate investigative work by both the Erie County Sheriff and District Attorney,” Kearns said in a statement. “I have the utmost confidence in law enforcement and their abilities to conduct a thorough examination of the facts.”

Erie County Sheriff John Garcia lambasted the Comptroller’s office for releasing the results of the audit while the investigation remained ongoing.

“I am astonished that Comptroller Hardwick would share information relevant to an open and ongoing investigation. I am not alone in stating that to do so is totally inappropriate,” Garcia said. “He is obviously unfamiliar with the rules of evidence. Furthermore, he and members of his office will be reminded that they are witnesses in this case.”

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Adam Gorski is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team in 2022. You can find more of his work here.

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