FARRELL Programs will go on despite audit find

Despite uncertainty over $20,053, Farrell and Wheatland youths can expect to enjoy summer recreation as usual.
FARRELL, Pa. -- The Farrell Recreation Commission's chairman says he intends to offer, and the public can expect, the same level of commission-sponsored summer youth programs this year as was offered last year, despite an audit showing a lack of documentation for $20,053 in expenses.
"The city has already budgeted dollars along with the school [district] for summer programming," Riley Smoot, the commission's newly appointed chairman, said Wednesday. Smoot, who said he participated in these programs while growing up in Farrell, is also a sergeant with the Southwest Mercer County Regional Police Department.
The nine-member commission, a joint venture of the city and the Farrell School Board, operates a summer youth recreation program with adult supervision at playgrounds in Farrell and Wheatland and makes donations to sports organizations.
Commission programs are offered to the youths of Farrell and Wheatland at no charge to participants, and free lunches are provided to participants.
The commission, which had a $42,000 budget last year, receives funds from the city, the school district and a state-administered community development block grant.
The commission's first audit, conducted by McGill, Power, Bell and Associates of Hermitage, found the panel failed to keep $20,053 in expense invoices and failed to withhold about $700 in payroll taxes from one pay period as required by the IRS. Smoot said he believes the problem stems from incomplete documentation and not from any attempt to misuse the commission's money.
As recommended by the auditors, strict guidelines are now in place, which require full documentation of all commission spending, Smoot said.
He said he didn't know whether commission members might be personally liable for any of the $20,053, if it has to be repaid.
In response to a question from Farrell businessman Larry Owens during Wednesday's commission meeting, Smoot said the matter would be referred to the police department if any criminal act is suspected.
"The commission isn't trying to hide anything," Smoot said.
City Councilman Louis Falconi, who is also a commission member, said a state audit of the commission is under way.
Smoot said the deadline for summer teaching, coaching and playground maintenance job applications is 3 p.m. Wednesday, and the commission will meet at 4 p.m. that day at city hall to consider them.

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