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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, February 16, 2012

Busch calls for county audit
Federal lien leveled against Project Strive

GUILDERLAND — A new Albany County legislator, representing the Hilltowns, is calling for the county to audit a not-for-profit organization directed by Guilderland’s Democratic Party chairman.

Deborah Busch, a Republican legislator, began her term last month, and one of her first moves was to ask County Executive Daniel McCoy to investigate the business practices of Project Strive, a program under the county’s Center for Advancement of Family and Youth, run by David Bosworth.

McCoy is a Democrat, as is the majority of the legislature, although Busch stresses her motivation is not political.

Albany County provided the not-for-profit — which offers at-risk youth counseling, family counseling, after-school programs, and summer programs — with nearly $2.8 million in funding from 2009 to 2011.

The federal paperwork lists Patricia Slavick as the treasurer for Project Strive; Slavick is also a Democratic member of the Guilderland Town Board. She could not be reached for comment, and Bosworth declined to comment on her behalf.

Busch wrote McCoy a letter stating her request after she found out the federal government placed a lien of $167,000 on Project Strive for failure to pay taxes.

The lien is federal, but Busch wants the county to conduct its own investigation to decide if it should continue funding the program.

“I can’t see funding programs that won’t even do the work to maintain a not-for-profit standing,” Busch told The Enterprise this week.

According to the Internal Revenue Service, Project Strive failed to pay quarterly taxes after the first half of 2010. The $167,000 cited in the lien is for failure to report the Medicare and Social Security withholdings of employees.

“I want to see what kind of bang we are getting for our buck here,” said Busch. “The county is not a jobs program, we want good services.”

County residents, particularly those she represents in the Hilltowns, who she says struggle to make ends meet, can’t afford to pay taxes to fund programs that are not being run properly.

Bosworth said the services have not been affected by the lien, and the problem was simply one of miscommunication.

“We were not aware of the issue until January, and we immediately had our accounting firm get in touch with the agency involved, and they are dealing with it directly,” Bosworth said this week.

Due to some staff changing and a new online filing system, Bosworth said there was a misunderstanding about what was required and when it was due.

“This is not a cash flow problem, at present; there is no money involved, it’s just a notice that if we don’t meet the requirements there will be a penalty,” said Bosworth. No funds have been frozen or taken, and therefore, the same level of services has been maintained, he said.

Busch is concerned with the oversight in filing.

“There is absolutely no bookkeeping going on; if you’re running a not-for-profit, you need to make sure you have regular meetings with your board of directors, that you are fiscally sound, and that you file the appropriate paperwork to make sure you are eligible for county funding,” said Busch, who works as a nurse.

“I’ve been with the agency almost 40 years and this is the first time we’ve had anything of this nature come about,” said Bosworth. “Unfortunately, communication just didn’t work as well as it should have.” He also noted that the agency had not heard anything from the county executive’s office on actions it might be taking.

A spokesperson for the county executive indicated that there might not be any action taken by the county.

“As long as they are providing services, as long as they are not neglecting what it is we are paying them for, a federal lien has nothing to do with us,” said Mary Rozak, director of communications for McCoy.

“We have been a long-term provider, we have a long history of providing services to family and children, and I hope this isn’t a distraction,” Bosworth said, noting he didn’t want to comment on Busch’s motivation for call to action.

“This is not political,” Busch said. “If this happened with any other organization we funded with county money, it would be scrutinized, regardless of and above any political affiliation.”

Bosworth said the county already provides oversight of his agency’s activities and operations on a regular basis, and he doesn’t believe a more thorough investigation is required.

“We were not aware this had moved to the level of a lien and we were hoping to address the problem in a less formal manner than we are now,” he concluded. “We are working quickly to have the lien released.”

Busch said she hopes the agency will at least make a commitment to investigate its own work practices.

“I moved with my conscience here — I’m going to do what’s best for the people, and I don’t care who gets angry,” concluded Busch. “Every program in Albany County is up for scrutiny, and needs to be.”

By Anne Hayden

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