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 The opinion may no longer represent those views if, among other things, there have been subsequent court cases or statutory amendments that bear on the issues discussed in the opinion.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 (manner of execution of officer's statement)
TOWN BOARD -- Powers and Duties (requiring original signatures on vouchers)
TOWN COMPTROLLER -- Powers and Duties (requiring original signatures on vouchers)
TOWN LAW, §118(1); GENERAL CONSTRUCTION LAW, §46: The statement of the officer whose action gave rise or origin to a claim may be executed by a signature stamp affixed with the intent to execute the statement, unless the town board or town comptroller, as the case may be, has required an original signature.
You ask whether vouchers submitted for audit by a town highway superintendent must contain an original signature of the superintendent or may contain a signature affixed by a signature stamp.
Town Law, §118(1) provides that, with certain exceptions not applicable here, no claim against a town may be paid unless an itemized voucher in the form prescribed by the town board, or by the town comptroller if claims are to be audited by the town comptroller, is presented to the board or the comptroller and is audited and allowed. Section 118(1) further provides that the voucher "shall 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 services were actually rendered or the goods actually received.
Section 118(1) does not prescribe the form or manner in which the statement of the officer whose action gave rise or origin to the claim must be made. Thus, it is our opinion that, pursuant to the authorization in section 118(1) to prescribe the form of the voucher, the town board or the town comptroller, as the case may be, may require that the statement be executed only by original signature of the appropriate town officers.
In the absence of such a requirement by the board or the comptroller, we note that General Construction Law, §46 provides that:
The term signature includes any memorandum, mark or sign, written, printed, stamped, photographed, engraved or otherwise placed upon any instrument or writing with intent to execute or authenticate such instrument or writing.
Based on the provisions of General Construction Law, §46, we have previously expressed the opinion that a public official may use a stamped signature on official documents, unless the use thereof is otherwise precluded pursuant to law (30 Opns St Comp, 1974, p 21; see also General Construction Law, §110). Thus, we have concluded that a town justice may affix a signature stamp upon his or her docket books (30 Opns St Comp, 1974, supra), but that, because of the specific requirement in Town Law, §29(3) that the town board authorize the use of a facsimile signature to sign checks, a town supervisor may not sign checks by use of a rubber stamp (12 Opns St Comp, 1956, p 191).
Since there is no requirement in section 118(1) for an original signature, it is our opinion that the statement required by Town Law, §118(1) may be executed by a signature stamp affixed with the intent to execute the statement, unless the town board or the town comptroller has required an original signature. If necessary in a given situation, the board or the comptroller, in connection with the audit function, may question the officer whose statement is on the voucher, or obtain additional documentation, to ensure that the signature stamp has been properly affixed (see Town Law, §119).
Finally, we note that because of the potential for theft or misuse, the use of signature stamps should be carefully monitored at the local level. The town should establish internal controls to ensure that the stamps are accessible only by appropriate officers and for proper purposes.
April 5, 1994
William Kelly, Town Supervisor
Town of Chili