Father Young to testify before grand jury
GUILDERLAND — Father Peter Young will testify in front of a grand jury, in Schenectady, on April 28, regarding the alleged misappropriation of grant funds in his organization.
Young, who began his work with drug and alcohol addicts more than 60 years ago in Albany, has long been the head of more than 90 residential sites, in-patient treatment centers, and halfway houses in New York State.
At the moment, he said this week, he has more than 40 properties up for sale.
“I don’t have much money left,” said Young. “I’m pretty well broke.”
He ran the rehab center bearing his name, in Altamont, in the old seminary perched above the village, for 35 years, before being forced to shut it down last month for lack of funding.
The closure came after the organization had been facing legal scrutiny for three-and-a-half years.
The charges by the New York State Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman, stem from, according to Young’s attorney, E. Stewart Jones, “a paperwork mistake.”
The error was discovered when the organization self-reported an internal theft, which led to a broader investigation.
Jones said Young himself was not targeted in the investigation, because it was an administrative mistake, but Young and his organization would be the victims if the charges are upheld.
Jones had scheduled a meeting with the attorney general’s office, during which he hoped to convince Schneiderman to disband the grand jury. Jones said he thought the investigation was disproportionate to the offense.
Jones said this week that he couldn’t comment on the content of the meeting, but that Schneiderman had not been willing to call off the grand jury, and Young would be testifying.
The attorney general’s office has been unwilling to answer questions about the case and declined comment again this week.
“I haven’t heard any ideas about what they might be asking me,” said Young on Tuesday. “They have interrogated dozens of people for the past few years and they have told me some things they’ve been questioned about.”
The gist of the questions, he said, has been whether the organization was paid for every service it provided, and where and how Young had gotten the money to fund his programs.
“I think they basically want to know if we ever gave anything out for free,” said Young. “Free meals, free lodging; basically they want to know if it was like running a free hotel.”
Young talked about his own understanding of what might have happened with the grant misappropriation, referencing something called block grant funding, which is awarded to help residents of specific counties or communities.
“You can’t use the funding from one county on someone who doesn’t have that county of origin,” he said.
Counties don’t want people who are from out-of-county, because they have to pay for them, he said.
“I’ve received state money and federal money, in the tens of millions of dollars, but I’ve saved the state money by reducing the re-incarceration rate down to eight percent,” said Young.
He said he achieved that by making sure his clients received treatment, then had clean, safe, and sober housing, followed by job training.
“I’m really very happy with what I have done,” said Young, who is now in his eighties. “I have made a great contribution to the state and I wish the attorney general could see it that way.”
Young said he never gave out anything for free.
“People had to work for it,” he said. “This really all comes down to small potatoes and the amount of time and energy that has been spent investigating us for the past three years is amazing.”
Unfortunately, said Young, at a meeting with the Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services this week, he was informed that, even if he got the Altamont facility back up and running, OASAS would not provide funding for the programs.
A large factor in the closure of the Altamont facility was a change to the Health Insurance Portability Act — HIPAA — that required no other programs be held in the same location as OASAS programs.
Other programs he had housed in the former seminary had helped pay the bills, Young said.
“I don’t know exactly what they want,” said Young, referring to the attorney general’s office. “I’m going to find out, thank God, on Monday.”
In the meantime, he said, he his hopeful that John Malfetano, M.D., a Voorheesville resident who had performed patient in-takes at the Peter Young Center, will be able to keep the building in use, as a wellness center. (To read more about this, go online to www.AltamontEnterprise.com.)
Malfetano has been working to set up a practice there, and Young said, this week, that, since The Enterprise March 27 front-page story on the wellness center plans, others had come forward and shown interest in becoming tenants in the building.
“This is a hard time for me,” said Young. “It’s difficult to be forced to sit on the sidelines when you know that you can help those that are sick and suffering.”