BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - A recent audit of the Buffalo Police union is raising a lot questions about how money is being used. The audit points to a lack of proper internal controls over how some of the money was spent under the PBA's former leadership.
The draft audit looks at the Buffalo PBA's spending practices over a two-year period, from 2010 to 2011. Specifically, auditors are looking at $56,000 in credit card charges for meals, entertainment, conferences and similar items.
VIDEO | This is a two-part investigation by News 4's Luke Moretti. Watch the second video included with this story for the second half of his report
So far, the draft audit has identified several instances where proper supporting documentation was not maintained or spending on certain expenses may be deemed unauthorized and excessive.
For example, auditors looked at charges each month to various restaurants in western New York and also in Florida, where former PBA president Robert Meegan also maintained a residence. Some of the lunches totaled more than a thousand dollars.
Meegan told auditors that he would entertain other PBA officers and politicians, and that the PBA was a 24-hour, 7-day a week job.
As PBA president, Meegan told auditors that he was required to buy drinks, lunches and dinners to benefit PBA members. Meegan, according to the audit, stated that when he took office he was instructed by the former PBA president that the credit card could be used for entertaining PBA members, politicians - among other expenses.
But retired police Lt. Larry Baehre, Meegan's immediate predecessor, doesn't recall having a conversation with Meegan about what to do with the credit card.
"He was aware of the presidential credit card because at the time he was a member of the board," Baehre said. "So he knew what the rules were, in other words, what the card was supposed to be used for."
Baehre understood that the card could be used for buying a politician lunch or other legitimate expenses - but he says the card was used very judiciously.
"Rarely if ever would the credit card bill have been more than $200 a month, and only $200 a month on a very rare occasion," Baehre said.
According to the audit, the PBA's unwritten policy was they could take a spouse or significant other. Auditors found that total airline expenses for a spouse or significant other amounted to more than $3,000 during the 24-month period reviewed. But the purchase of the spouse's airline ticket should not have been included as a PBA expense, the audit states.
Meegan indicated to auditors that neither he nor the other board members knew the treatment of the guest's airline tickets was not proper.
In addition to airline tickets for conferences, lodging and certain meals were charged to the union-issued credit card, auditors state. PBA officials were given $2,000 each for additional expenses for a June 2011 conference.
But there were no receipts provided as documentation of what additional expenses the board members incurred for $2,000 each or if Meegan was paid twice for the same expense, according to the audit.
Meegan indicated to auditors that the amounts were for spending money for meals and golf.
Baehre said, "I always kept receipts for things."
Baehre hasn't seen the audit, but says he is surprised by its striking allegations.
"That's more than we ever spent, and I think had I ever spent stuff like that I certainly would have been vilified," Baehre said.
The audit was requested by some current union leaders following Meegan's retirement a little over a year ago. News 4 reached out to Meegan for comment, but were unable to reach him.
Current PBA President James Panus tells News 4 he is unable to comment on the audit at this time.
The draft audit has 11 recommendations, ranging from having a better accounting system to establishing guidelines for hotel accommodations, travel and meal allowances.
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