Town: Examination of justice court finances is a work in progress

An independent audit of the Southold Town Justice Court’s finances, which started more than a year ago in the wake of a theft controversy at the court, is still ongoing, town officials said this week.

The audit — conducted by Albrecht, Viggiano, Zureck & Company at a cost of $36,000 — was approved by the Town Board in a March 2014 resolution.

The board’s decision came weeks after news leaked that court clerk Christine Stulsky was under investigation for stealing thousands of dollars in bail fund money from the court over the course of a decade. At that same meeting, the board accepted a letter from Ms. Stulsky announcing her retirement. She turned herself in to authorities three days later.

In January, Ms. Stulsky pleaded guilty to felony grand larceny and was sentenced to six months in jail followed by five years’ probation. She must also pay the full $231,791 prosecutors said she took from the court over 10 years, according to the terms of her plea deal.

As part of the criminal investigation, forensic investigators with the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office had reviewed town documents related to the court’s bail fund.

Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said the auditor had been bound by the criminal investigation not to share any findings with the town, but he wasn’t sure Tuesday whether that order was still in effect.

When reached by phone, town comptroller John Cushman confirmed that the audit had not yet been completed. He said the full $36,000 had been paid to AVZ to complete the audit.

When asked what the audit was specifically investigating or when town officials expected it to be completed, Mr. Cushman declined to comment.

Mr. Russell said he planned to reach out to the auditors to get a better sense of when the audit would be finished.

“This wasn’t going to be an easy project,” he said. “They have a lot of work. We all knew that going into it.”

The town has since taken steps to tighten oversight of the courts, which were run by the elected justices. A Justice Court director position, designed to manage the court and report directly to the supervisor and Town Board, was created and filled in December.

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