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Rockland Revamps Troubled Community Development Office

County Executive Ed Day, shown in New City in May with Penny Jennings, Rockland's acting human rights commissioner, this week announced that the county is re-structuring its Office of Community Development.
County Executive Ed Day, shown in New City in May with Penny Jennings, Rockland's acting human rights commissioner, this week announced that the county is re-structuring its Office of Community Development. Photo Credit: Facebook

NEW CITY, N.Y. – A major shake-up at Rockland’s troubled Office of Community Development will produce a department that, said County Executive Ed Day Thursday, “better serves the needs of the community.”

"This new structure increases accountability and will streamline the department's function," Day said.

According to an earlier report in the Daily Voice, there has been an ongoing battle between the chairman of the county Legislature, Alden H. Wolfe, and Day.

Wolfe in November formally requested the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to probe possibly missing funds awarded through the OCD.

Day had vowed in a column printed by a local media outlet in which he promised “to get to the bottom of where this HUD money has gone.”

Wolfe had earlier requested that Penny Jennings, the county’s acting human rights commissioner, provide legislators with information regarding “wrongdoing and possible corruption” in the Community Development Block Grant program, the Daily Voice reported.

The restructuring, Day said Thursday, is “an ongoing effort to ensure full compliance and accountability” in the OCD’s operations.

According to the county executive, Jennings, assisted by the county’s auditor and law department in May began a “top-to-bottom dissection” of the OCD “after it was determined that the previous director had effectively failed to carry out direction from the county executive to address personnel and financial issues.”

That director, who Day did not name in his statement, is, he said, “no longer employed by the county.”

According to Day, Jennings uncovered “numerous, questionable issues surrounding federal funds granted to various entities.”

She will, he added, “continue to take corrective action to protect taxpayer dollars.”

Four positions have been axed, disciplinary action has been taken as part of the review of department's reorganization, and reporting responsibilities have been revamped, Day said.

He did not say, in his announcement, what those positions were.

The county is planning to hire a forensic auditor to review the department's records “in detail” and to examine the “procedures, performance and practices” of its past directors.

"We are taking every step available to us to make sure that taxpayer funds entrusted to the Office of Community Development are used appropriately and accounted for down to the last dime," Day said.

Jennings will remain in an administrative role in the OCD.

"She will continue the work she has already started to sort out how public funds have been allocated by this department and how that money has been used," Day said.

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