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Queens Chronicle

Samaritan Village audit reveals misused funds

The State Comptroller’s Office says the agency wrongly spent $1 million

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Posted: Thursday, March 6, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 11:39 am, Thu Mar 13, 2014.

Those who have stood firm against the proposed homeless shelter at the site of a former factory at 78-16 Cooper Ave. in Glendale now have more ammunition in their fight against the plan.

An audit by the New York State Comptroller’s Office of a prior contract between Samaritan Village, the human services agency sponsoring the shelter, and the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services revealed that Samaritan Village allegedly misused nearly $1 million in state funds.

For the audit period between July 1, 2009 and June 30, 2010, Samaritan Village received $11.3 million from OASAS.

According to Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s report, the agency charged the state $973,881 for “unallowable, inappropriate, questionable or undocumented expenses.”

Included in the nearly $1 million was $220,000 in employee bonuses that were not distributed on merit, but instead were given as a result of unspent budgeted funds. Another $34,140 was allocated to an executive retirement fund.

A little more than $400,000 was distributed to clients for trips and transportation, something DiNapoli’s report cites as unwarranted.

“Since most Samaritan Village clients already receive a personal needs allowance, the expenses may be duplicative and unnecessary,” the report says.

Additionally, the audit says that $63,519 was spent on legal services not related to OASAS, $57,000 was spent on construction and $35,158 was allocated for “high-end office equipment purchases” among other expenditures.

OASAS and Samaritan Village are currently bound together by a five-year, $73.3 million contract.

“Nearly $1 million in inappropriate and questionable costs were charged to taxpayers because the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services didn’t effectively monitor this contractor’s expenses,” DiNapoli said in the report. “OASAS needs to improve its oversight of how contractors are using public money so taxpayers aren’t getting the short end of the stick.”

Community Board 5 District Manager Gary Giordano believes that the inappropriate spending of state funds by Samaritan Village throws the agency’s credibility into question.

The board already opposes the plan for several other reasons.

“That certainly puts a big question mark on whether Samaritan Village’s financial estimates for what the proposed homeless shelter would cost are anywhere near accurate,” Giordano said.

Community Board 5 and Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills) sent letters to City Comptroller Scott Stringer and Department of Homeless Services Commissioner Gilbert Taylor respectively on March 3, calling for the suspension of the city’s review of the proposed Glendale shelter.

“It is appropriate for the City of New York to suspend further consideration of new contracts with this entity,” Hevesi said, “until further investigation and analysis is complete with full accounting by Samaritan Village for their actions.”

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