Blow the Whistle

23 Dec

It just might pay off:


Comptroller Notes His Office’s Role in Investigation

Erie County Comptroller Mark C. Poloncarz issued the following statement regarding the filing of criminal charges today by New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo against George Alexander, former chairman and chief executive officer of the New York State Division of Parole. Mr. Alexander was the former Director of the Erie County (“County”) Department of Probation (“Probation”), who resigned last week from his state position following the issuance of a New York State Inspector General report that found that he had misappropriated a County computer and engaged in wrongdoing while a senior state employee.

The announcement that New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has filed criminal charges in Buffalo City Court against George Alexander should be viewed by the public as an affirmation of the rule that if you are a public official or employee and you misuse public resources you will be investigated and held accountable for your actions regardless of your position. As the taxpayers watchdog in Erie County I am proud that an investigation started in my office has led to an appropriate action. I applaud Attorney General Cuomo and the New York State Inspector General’s Office for their efforts to root out corruption in government and to defend taxpayers against dishonest public employees.

On April 11, 2008, my office received a one-page anonymous letter in the mail. This letter, which was also apparently sent to top state officials, county legislators, and media outlets, alleged that the County had purchased a new laptop computer using grant funds and that during an audit, the laptop had been found to be missing. The letter further stated that the laptop had been traced to Mr. Alexander, who returned the “stolen computer and the matter (was) dropped.”

Upon our receipt of this letter, my office immediately commenced an investigation. Our investigation in April-May 2008 included extensive data collection, separate interviews with seven County employees, and an interview with Mr. Alexander conducted by myself and another member of my office’s staff.

Unfortunately, during our investigation, senior officials from the Collins Administration attempted to prevent our office from investigating this matter. (WTF??!! – BP) They initially denied our request to interview County employees. Only after I threatened to issue subpoenas did the Collins Administration authorize County employees to speak with my staff. In addition, senior management in the Erie County Sheriff’s Office refused to provide my office with a copy of their police report detailing their office’s limited role in this matter (we eventually obtained a copy of the report from Probation officials). I note that Probation officials cooperated fully with our inquiry.

My investigation found inconsistencies in and between Mr. Alexander’s statements and those of his former subordinates. We believed that Mr. Alexander’s explanations and responses to our questions were not credible. We also found that Probation had no justifiable reason for purchasing the laptop at the end of the state grant and then provide it to Alexander just before he resigned from the County to join the State Division of Parole. Our report also found significant failures of internal control in Probation and the County’s purchasing and asset tracking process for equipment. It is quite apparent that only a select few Probation employees were aware of the laptop’s purchase, and none knew that Mr. Alexander possessed it.

Following our interview of Mr. Alexander, I contacted a senior aide to Governor David Paterson to inform his administration that one of their cabinet-level department heads was under investigation by my office for the misappropriation of County resources and that we were nearing completion of our review. Very shortly thereafter, I was contacted by a representative of the State Inspector General’s Office who informed me that they were commencing an investigation into the matter. In May 2008, I and my staff member charged with investigating the matter met with the Inspector General’s representatives and presented our findings to them. I was subsequently contacted by officials from the New York State Attorney General’s Office Public Integrity Bureau and shared our findings with them.

Since that time, I remained in contact with state officials concerning this matter, including the Attorney General’s office. At the request of the Inspector General’s and Attorney General’s offices, and due to their separate investigations, I did not disclose my findings or comment on this matter until they could conclude their work so as to not jeopardize any criminal investigation they were undertaking. Regardless of the outcome of this matter, I look forward to continuing to partner with the Attorney General on his efforts to root out public corruption as both our offices work to help restore the public’s trust in our government.

Now that this matter has been brought to the public, and speaking on behalf of my office, I reaffirm to the public that if you are aware of potential waste, fraud, or abuse of your tax dollars, please report it to my office immediately. Mr. Alexander’s resignation and prosecution appears to partially be the result of an anonymous tip. This shows that every tip will be investigated by my office regardless of the potential party alleged to have conducted the wrongdoing. Our office created the County’s whistleblower hotline which allows you the public to report alleged wrongdoing anonymously, via letter, e-mail, the Internet or telephone. We investigate every allegation, take all reports seriously, and as is evident from this matter, will forward the information we obtain to other parties to pursue a criminal investigation if warranted.

8 Responses to “Blow the Whistle”

  1. Pauldub December 24, 2008 at 7:33 am #

    Sheriff Howard did not have kind words for the Comptroller in the News. Mark is doing a great job and if other public servants were to follow his example instead of empire building, we would be better off.

  2. Don December 24, 2008 at 8:54 am #

    Poloncarz is empire building – but that is good. He is a elected to a top political position and needs to stay there or better yet advance. He needs to applaud himself as a watchdog – and needs to belittle others – “this letter, which was also apparantly sent to top state officials, county legislators, and media outlets…”

    Collins is opposition – so a shot at him is appropriate.

    Its not easy to be a successful public servant – empire building is not a negative.

  3. hank December 24, 2008 at 9:19 am #

    Poloncarz is the (unfortunately a minority) exception to the general rule that all pols are overinflated egoitstic crooks.

    Imagine, a guy that gets elected to his job that actually does what his job description says he’s supposed to? And has the balls to follow the evidence, even if it leads to someone in his own party?

    Sic Marc on the Thruway Authority. And the rest of the Authority system for that matter.

  4. August West December 24, 2008 at 9:34 am #

    It’s all in the hair.

  5. Dick Kern December 24, 2008 at 5:29 pm #

    As somebody who was repeatedly prosecuted for exposing public misconduct, until I gave up & left Bflo, this is gratifying to see.

    Now, will new DA Frank Sedita reverse the longstanding pattern of outgoing Frank Clark, of providing “protection” for his political friends?

  6. Partridge In A Pear Tree December 25, 2008 at 8:22 pm #

    Dick Kern knows his stuff.

    He exposed Illuzzi well before Alan even knew what a blog was.

    Kern, will you call Sedita’s office the day after he is sworn in and question him?

  7. stophoward2009 December 27, 2008 at 1:28 am #

    So the ECSO wouldn’t cooperate, huh ? What a surprise. Much like when they wouldn’t let the DOJ investigators into their jails – you know – the ones the NYSCOC called the worst run in the State ? How could this clown have the nerve to run again ? The only feather in his cap is the small role a couple of investigators played in the Sanchez task force. Add a handful of dead inmates, and the tragic shooting of a trooper due to the mismangement of the ECSO and this clown should bow out gracefully , go collect his huge pensions and let his cronys scramble for their next appointed gigs.

    Refresh your memories with this :

  8. Free Deane December 28, 2008 at 11:00 am #

    Another interesting point is that one of the lead COC investigators into the jailbreak report that soooo incensed Howard & Co. – Deane McGeary – was arrested for some BS “disorderly conduct” while at a Bills game ! Hmmmm … coincidence ? I think not ! Just some more petty vindictiveness that has become the benchmark of this administration. Hey , can anyone tell me whose brother it is that runs the security at Rich Stadium ?

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