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Update: U.S. State Department Says County Fee Waivers Violated Federal Law

Glasses on newspaper(Update, Oct. 4) – The U.S. Department of State has determined the Monroe County Clerk’s Office was in violation of federal law when the office previously issued fee waivers to over 600 select individuals, potentially costing taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars.

“The law does not provide any exemption from the execution fee when a new application is executed before a state official,” the state said Tuesday.

Monroe County Clerk Adam Bello announced in September that as many as 668 people had been given potentially illegal waivers on passport and pistol permit fees under former County Clerk Cheryl Dinolfo’s administration, since 2008.

In response, Dinolfo said any and all waivers issued during her time in office had been within the parameters of the law.

However, according to the state, “By law, acceptance agents cannot execute an application without accepting an execution fee.” 

Reportedly, state officials plan to continue investigating the matter. 

Bello had been appointed to the clerk’s office by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in March, to fill the vacancy left by Dinolfo when she became Monroe County Executive.

He is seeking election to the office this fall.

(From Sept. 23) – The U.S. Department of State is currently looking into allegations that the Monroe County Clerk’s Office issued false fee waivers under former Clerk Cheryl Dinolfo that cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars.

The State Department’s press office sent out an email recently that stated their awareness of the situation, and that they will “review any allegations and take appropriate steps to ensure the integrity of the passport application process.”

In addition, current County Clerk Adam Bello announced that as many as 668 people had been given potentially illegal waivers on passport and pistol permit fees since 2008.

Bello, appointed to the office by Governor Andrew Cuomo in March to fill the vacancy left by Dinolfo when she became Monroe County Executive, is seeking election to the office this fall.

Dinolfo, who served as County Clerk from 2004 until her recent position change, claims that any and all waivers issued during her time in office were well within the parameters of the law.

Bello stated that he was unable to reveal the names of those who received illegal permits for privacy reasons, but one name has slipped out.

It was recently discovered that Dinolfo’s husband, Vincent Dinolfo, as well as former Rochester Police Chief James Sheppard, were both given potentially improper fee waivers during her time in office.

Keeping receipts for seven years before shredding them is a best practice that could save a person from a lot of trouble. In response to media inquiries about the incident, Dinolfo revealed a receipt that shows her office waived the $20 Notary Public license renewal fee for her husband in 2009.

At the time, Vincent Dinolfo was a law clerk in Monroe County Surrogate’s Court and an Irondequoit Town Justice.

Cheryl Dinolfo has since requested a public apology from Bello for his accusations, stating that he “owes my husband an apology for making false accusations.”

Bello fired back, alleging that Dinolfo is both wrong about the law and in her application of the law.

On the other hand, Sheppard, who is a current Monroe County legislator, disclosed in a press release that he had been granted a waiver for his local passport fee in February 2012.

Earlier this month, Sheppard paid his fee.

“Whether or not it was legally waived, it’s important to me to pay the fees,” he said. “It is in everybody’s interest as residents and taxpayers of Monroe County.”

Further information has yet to be found in every case, but the fact remains that these potential errors may have cost taxpayers an extraordinary amount of money.

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