×

Tioga mayor alleges discrepancies in borough finances, calls for answers

TIOGA — Tioga Borough Mayor David Wilcox says he is left “dissatisfied” with how borough officials have handled allegations that money is missing from borough accounts.

The questions concerning borough personnel have been simmering in the Tioga County community for months — since at least April — with the issue gradually unfolding to include specific questions about the municipality’s account balances.

Tioga Borough Council acted at its August meeting to attempt to bring a quiet end to the saga that accelerated when Wilcox asserted there was money missing from the borough coffers at the July council meeting.

“There are discrepancies that cannot be explained,” Wilcox told the Sun-Gazette.

In mid-June, Wilcox said he “got a call, that myself, along with our lawyer (Borough Solicitor Jeffrey Loomis), the chief of police (Zachary Mosso) and two council members needed to meet to review a tape.”

Loomis confirmed the mayor’s accounts of the meetings and conversation in which Loomis took part.

According to Wilcox, the tape in question showed that a council member was removing documents from the building. The matter was referred to the state police, who quickly cleared those allegedly seen on the tapes of any wrongdoing because, according to Wilcox, “they deemed there was no criminal intent.”

After Wilcox sat down with the council member who was alleged to have taken the documents and heard their side of the story, he determined he wanted to find out who was telling the truth.

“A week before the July 6 meeting, I decided that after hearing from both sides that I would look into what was in question, what was going on, who is telling the truth and who is lying,” Wilcox said. “It was at this point I noticed the misappropriated money.”

Wilcox alleges that as far back as 2016, money was missing from the borough coffers and that time sheets and pay stubs were not matching up. He says that in 2020 he found 26 miscalculations over 31 pay periods.

“There was a pattern. There was definitely a pattern,” Wilcox said.

The July 6 meeting would be the first time Wilcox revealed the allegations publicly.

“Before the meeting I presented a document to (Loomis) and he suggested I call an executive session and present it to council,” he said. “I presented a sample of my findings to council that night.”

Loomis confirmed this series of events to the Sun-Gazette.

After showing the documents to council, Wilcox did not get the reaction he thought he would.

“After presenting that finding I was asked to stay quiet about it and not bring it up,” he said.

He goes on to state that the day after the July 6 meeting, council scheduled an emergency meeting for July 9. He says that in that meeting, a resolution calling for a forensic audit into the alleged misappropriations was approved by council. But, according to Wilcox, that meeting was determined to be illegal as proper notice was not given to the public.

Another meeting was scheduled for July 16. However, Wilcox says that in between the July 9 meeting and when he was informed the meeting was illegal, council had already reached out to a forensic audit team.

He says that less than two hours after his call to Loomis where he confirmed the July 9 meeting was illegal and informed Loomis that council had indeed made contact with a forensic audit team, that the borough office shut down. Council legally rescheduled the meeting to July 16.

Loomis confirmed that he spoke to Wilcox regarding the illegal meeting, but could not remember when the first time he heard of the audit was.

“They called a new meeting in which (Loomis) attended. The council had spoken with a forensic audit team and deemed that $50,000 was too much to spend on an audit,” Wilcox said. “It was stated during that Friday evening meeting that the president of borough council (Doreen Burnside) and another council member went through the year 2020 documents in question while the borough office was closed.”

Doreen Burnside did not reply to a request for comment from the Sun-Gazette.

At the July 16 meeting council decided to form a special committee consisting of two council members, three borough residents and the mayor. It was also decided, according to Wilcox, that the documents would remain sealed until a scheduled committee meeting July 27.

At the July 27 special committee meeting, Wilcox says that there was a consensus opinion on what the truth was.

“It was confirmed by everyone around the table that everything I had alleged, all the miscalculations and misappropriations of money was true,” he said.

However, Wilcox states that some of the documents did not match up with his notes he took while viewing the documents.

He alleges that the documents viewed that dated to 2016 and early 2020 matched what he had written, but things started not matching up later in 2020.

At the Aug. 1 regularly scheduled borough council meeting, three recommendations were discussed. The first recommendation was to purchase a time clock. The second was to increase the number of required signatures for payroll documents. The final recommendation was to review previous timesheets and look at paid hours to compare before signing the current timesheet.

Tioga Borough Council voted to adopt the second and third recommendations, saying that a time clock would be inefficient as not all borough employees, such as those who work at the borough pool, report to work at the borough office.

That solution is not satisfactory to Wilcox.

“Accountability was supposed to be held, and it was not,” he said. “I would say (members of the borough council) were misled with how the committee meeting actually went, with the explanation that was given to them (at the Aug. 2 meeting).”

When asked how much money is missing, Wilcox could not venture a true guess, saying that the number of documents that have been evaluated pales in comparison to the number of documents that could show wrongdoing.

NEWSLETTER

Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *
   

Starting at $4.62/week.

Subscribe Today