Monday, December 22, 2014

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Hudson Valley

Saratoga Springs Housing Authority Board Chairman responds to audit

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Albany/HV: Saratoga Springs Housing Authority Board Chairman responds to audit
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The State Comptrollers Office has released its audit of the Saratoga Springs Housing Authority. Thomas DiNapoli says improvements need to be made there. And Saturday, the Chair of the Housing Board, responded to the audit. Our Beth Croughan has more.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — "The fact of the matter is, have you ever flown to Phoenix? Have you ever flown to Vegas? Which is cheaper?" asked Eric Weller, the Chairman of the Saratoga Springs Housing Authority Board.

Weller said cost is why a flight to Phoenix was canceled and instead another one booked to Vegas for travel to a conference in 2011.

But according to an audit from the State Comptroller's office, that's just one example of lax spending controls at the Authority. Nearly $12,000 in questionable travel costs were uncovered between July 2010 and February 2012.

"We have a difference of agreement on a number of those issues that we have to work out," said Weller.

The audit was conducted by the Comptroller at the request of the Saratoga Springs Mayor
after public allegations mounted over financial irregularities at the Housing Authority.

Weller said the allegations were not found to be actionable, but the Comptroller's audit also found issue with the Executive Director's nearly $145,000 salary. The report said it falls in the top seven percent of housing authority director salaries nationwide and was not in accordance with the personnel policy.

"Mr. (Edward) Spychalski's salary is within I think, one or two percent of the local high school principal's salary," said Weller.

The Comptroller's report recommends several improvements for the agency and said officials should immediately address the financial risks.

It also added the agency waited too long to address a bed bug infestation at the Stonequist Apartments.

"I didn't know that Mr. DiNapoli was an expert on pest control, or they even had a resident entomologist on his political advisory staff," said Weller.

The Housing Authority Board provided an initial response to the audit and has 90 days to deliver a compliance action plan.

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