CLARKSTOWN, N.Y. -- Rockland County Executive Ed Day was quick to respond to accusations from Legislative Chairman Alden H. Wolfe on Thursday about “wrongdoing and possible corruption” in the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program.
“My administration has long had concerns about how the Community Development Office is run," Day said. "We instructed the former director to report back to us about the agency’s financials. We were not satisfied with the response."
Wolfe, who asked for the district attorney to look into the matter, comes after a lohud.com report that quotes Day as saying, “At the same time we’re looking at wrongdoing and possible corruption, they choose to turn away an acting commissioner" in reaction to a vote against confirming Penny Jennings as human rights commissioner.
In the story, Day had accused legislators who blocked his appointment of Jennings of playing politics and added that her review of the CDBG program had revealed possible corruption and questionable practices.
In June of this year, very soon after Jennings was appointed, Day said he directed Rockland County Auditor Robert Bergman to review the financial operations of the CDBG program.
"He reported back that he found numerous areas of concern, including issues that were possibly criminal," Day reported. "In early October, he (Bergman) informed the office of the District Attorney of his preliminary findings."
In addition, Day said, the federal Housing and Urban Development has also been reviewing the Community Development Office and recently added a special investigator to the review.
"Perhaps if Chairman Wolfe and other members of the legislative majority had asked Dr. Jennings about the work she had done during her months at the agency instead of insulting her, they too would have heard about her concerns regarding use of federal funds," Day commented.
But instead of asking about her work, Wolfe and some members of the legislative majority took the nearly unprecedented step of failing to confirm a sitting commissioner, he added.
Day claims the legislature is so disorganized and misinformed that they would know that her job ends on Nov. 19, making her unavailable to discuss the matter at an upcoming committee meeting as requested by Wolfe on Thursday.
"That next regularly scheduled committee meetings will take place Nov. 29. Mr. Wolfe has essentially fired Dr. Jennings effective Nov. 19," Day said. "Perhaps Legislator Wolfe might want to rethink that request."
In addition to Thursday's memo, Day said Wolfe complained that Jennings never responded to his questions about CDBG funding when in fact she responded to the office on Aug. 2 with a memo that is time stamped and dated by the Legislative clerk.
"Finally, I think it’s interesting that Legislator Wolfe suddenly sees the Legislature’s function as a 'watchdog,'" Day added. "Where were these fiscal watchdogs when the county was spending itself into a $138 million deficit?"
In short, Day said he wanted to assure residents and taxpayers that his office has been working with HUD investigators to look at issues in the Community Development office.
"The investigation is ongoing and that is all we will say,” Day said.
Click on the attachment to read Jennings' letter to the Legislature.See Attachment