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Woodbridge Fire Commissioners Have 'No Idea' Why Trenton is Auditing Them

The independent NJ Comptroller's Office, which 'targets waste, fraud, and abuse', settled into the fire house for six weeks to go over the books


The is being audited by the NJ Office of the State Comptroller, and the fire commissioners say they have "no idea" why the state suddenly swooped down upon them.

"We received word in early March that they were coming," said Todd Howell, president of the five member fire commissioner board for District 1, which covers Woodbridge Proper and Sewaren.

"I don't know what it's all about. They didn't tell us what they were looking for."

Howell said as many as four state auditors descended on the School Street firehouse and went over 'everything' for six weeks.

"They called ahead of time and said they'd be here. We supplied them with whatever documentation they are looking for," Howell said. That encompassed "paperwork and minutes and vouchers, everything.

"They came with laptops and didn't say anything to us."

Peter McAleer, spokesman for the NJ Office of the State Comptroller, confirmed that they had visited the Woodbridge F.D.

"We did have auditors there," McAleer said. "It's part of a larger review of a series of fire districts. We'll have more details once the audit is complete."

According to their website, the NJ Comptroller's Office is an independent state agency that audits government finances and checks efficiencies of government programs. They are charged by state statute with investigating and uncovering "waste, fraud, and abuse at all levels of...[g]overnment..."

McAleer couldn't say what other towns his department had visited, but Howell said he had heard that Cherry Hill's fire department and "another down the shore" had also had their books looked into.

A report of the audit will be available later this year, McAleer said.

The District #1 fire department has approximately 44 volunteer and 25 paid firefighters, and operated with a $7.8 million budget in 2011.

A 47-year veteran of the Woodbridge Fire Department, Howell has been a fire commissioner since 2005, and served a previous stint from 1969 to 1975. This, he said, is his first brush with this type of state auditing agency.

Howell noted that the department has their records taken care of by an accounting firm, and they comply with all state recordkeeping requirements. "We also have an annual audit required by the state. We have an independent auditor where they submit the findings to the state. They've always accepted it without a problem," he said.

The whole episode is perplexing to the fire commissioners.

"We supplied what they asked," Howell said. "Then one day, they got up and went away and never came back again. 

"For the life of me, I don't know what it was all about."

Can't shut me up May 10, 2012 at 11:00 AM
Did you guys PO someone at 1 Main Street? Good Luck with the audit!!!!!!
Jeff May 11, 2012 at 03:50 AM
Gee,??? could it be that you needed $7,800,000.00 to run a fire house for 1 year for 25 payed workers. do the math
Tom Maras May 11, 2012 at 01:46 PM
Good point Jeff. As Governor Christie’s administration continues to look deeper into Middlesex County politics and various local government entities, don’t be surprised if other ‘audits’ occur throughout the county and in Woodbridge. Let's see which township operations, contractors and consultants, like Birdsall Engineering, get visits from the state.
A distant observer June 09, 2012 at 03:16 PM
Considering that up until recently they were giving sick time for people who weren't sick, and believing this was morally right, is it surprising that he has "no idea" why the auditors are there? Why doesn't he accuse them of poising 90,000 people at ground zero too?

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