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Snowmobile trail grooming in Saskatchewan. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/people/kneale/">Kneale Quayle</a>, CC <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/deed.en">some rights reserved</a>
Snowmobile trail grooming in Saskatchewan. Photo: Kneale Quayle, CC some rights reserved

State audit probes North Country snowmobile activities

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State officials say snowmobile clubs in New York state are misusing public funds designed to pay for trail grooming and maintenance.

A new audit released this week by Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli found that groups were diverting money meant for trails to pay for other club activities.

The audit also questioned the use of state money by groups in Franklin and Herkimer counties.

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In the Herkimer County case, Deyle allegedly admitted to falisfying the reports in order to divert roughly $3,400 away from one snowmobile club, funneling it instead to his own group of sledders, known as the Ilion Snowdrifters.

Comptroller Tom Dinapoli says the case has been referred to the Herkimer County District Attorney's office for possible prosecution.

But the audit found that snowmobile groups in at least eight New York counties were using similar accounting methods, diverting tens of thousands of dollars from actual trail maintenance.

The audit also highlighted the fact that Franklin County's Snowmobile Association, here in the North Country, pays its trail groomers, in contrast to other snowmobile groups around New York state, which operate with volunteers.

According to DiNapoli, over a two-year period the two top officers of the Franklin County Snowmobile Association paid themselves nearly $55,000 to maintain trails.

DiNapoli urged the state parks department to better monitor how money is allocated through the program and to provide more oversight over snowmobile groups that use public money to pay their own members.

In its written response, the Parks Department questioned some of the specific findings in the report, but agreed to tighten the procedures used when disbursing snowmobile trail funds.

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