Posted at: 06/25/2012 5:51 PM
| Updated at: 06/25/2012 7:22 PM
By: Beth Wurtmann
TROY - Taxpayers paid $16.5-million-dollars to Capital District Beginnings over two years, in contracting with the company to provide services to special needs children in Pre-K schools.
But a new state audit found, some of the money went to personal expenses and services for administrators, like paying the salary of one who doesn't even live in New York.
"They had responsibilities reimbursed for, for work she was doing in New York, when in fact you check the records she was living down south," said Thomas DiNapoli, New York State Comptroller.
DiNapoli says one co-owner billed the state for her full time salary over two fiscal years, while living in South Carolina, including business expenses for her car. The audit also said she actually worked in Troy an average of only 55 days a year.
The audit found when that out-of-state owner did come to Troy, she stayed at hotels like the Hilton Garden Inn, holding meetings even though there was plenty of room at the company offices.
"I know what I'm doing is legal I have no questions about that," said Mary Garrett, the co-owner who says she moved to South Carolina after suffering pain from a post polio condition.
Garrett said she is doing legitimate work.
"My only mistake was that I didn't keep time sheets and I wish I had and I have been since," she said, via an interview over the Internet.
The audit also found Capital District Beginnings doled out improper bonuses to staff and teachers. Overall, the state wants the company to pay taxpayers back more than $800,000-dollars.
"The message should be zero tolerance for ripping off taxpayer dollars in any situation. But when it's money intended for vulnerable children it really is unconscionable that this kind of rip-off would happen," DiNapoli said.
Garrett said the company hasn't done anything wrong but that it will work with the State to pay back any money that all parties agree, was not properly billed.