Opinion 2001-10

This opinion represents the views of the Office of the State Comptroller at the time it was rendered. The opinion may no longer represent those views if, among other things, there have been subsequent court cases or statutory amendments that bear on the issues discussed in the opinion.

CLAIMS -- Audit (necessity of vendor certification)

TOWN BOARD -- Powers and Duties (authority to require certification or verification of claims)

TOWN LAW §118: Vendors are not required to submit certified or verified claims to a town unless so required by town board resolution.

You ask whether a town must require vendors to certify claims submitted for payment for the provision of goods and services.

Town Law §118 relates to the form of claims against a town. Section 118(1) provides that, with certain exceptions, no claim against a town may be paid unless an itemized voucher therefor is presented, audited and allowed. The voucher must be accompanied by a statement by the officer whose action gave rise or origin to the claim that he or she approves the claim and that the service was actually rendered or the supplies or equipment actually delivered. Finally, section 118(1) provides that "[t]he town board may determine, by resolution, that vouchers shall be certified or verified." (emphasis added).

The last quoted sentence of section 118(1) was added by the enactment of a bill introduced at the request of the State Comptroller (chapter 9 of the Laws of 1982). Prior to the 1982 amendment, section 118(1) had provided that claims must be "certified to be true and correct in a statement signed by or on behalf of the claimant" and that in lieu of certification, the town board could provide that vouchers be verified (Town Law §118[1], as amended by chapter 836 of the Laws of 1970). The express purpose of the 1982 amendment was to eliminate the certification or verification requirement and instead provide towns "the option of requiring certification, verification, or neither." (Memorandum of the Office of the State Comptroller, S. 5208/A. 5791 of 1982, 1982 New York State Legislative Annual, p 24; see also 1990 Opns St Comp No. 90-9, p 21).

Accordingly, vendors are not required to submit certified or verified claims to a town unless so required by town board resolution.1

August 6, 2001

Michael J. Stachowski, Esq., Town Attorney
Town of Cheektowaga

1 Of course, irrespective of whether claims are required to be verified or certified, claims, with certain exceptions, must be audited by the town board or the town comptroller, as the case may be, to ascertain whether each claim is a proper town charge (Town Law §§118, 119[1]; see also, e.g., 1995 Opns St Comp No. 95-23, p 46). In so doing, the town board or town comptroller may require any person presenting the claim to be sworn before the board or any member thereof, or before the comptroller, relative to the justness and accuracy of the claim, and the town board or town comptroller may take evidence and examine witnesses, including generally pursuant to subpoena, in respect to the claim (Town Law §119).