The now-retired executive director of the Amsterdam Housing Authority reimbursed himself for travel expenses without proper oversight, according to an audit recently released by the state Comptroller’s Office.
Before his retirement earlier this month, Richard Miller was in charge of auditing reimbursement claims.
Before cutting checks for travel and other expenses, the audit report said Miller would check to make sure the claims were actually valid. Essentially he made sure people weren’t using housing authority dollars to go on vacation. The problem was, many of those travel expenses were his own.
“Since he has a direct interest in these payments, his objectivity and independence is compromised while conducting the audit of these particular claims,” the report said.
Auditors dug into the Housing Authority’s use of funds from Jan. 1, 2011, to Nov. 30, 2012, including nearly $15,000 spent on travel. While the audit report recommends increased oversight, it found no misuse of funds by Miller.
“Except for limited, immaterial issues that we addressed with Authority officials,” the report read, “the claims were properly supported and for appropriate Authority purposes.”
Read a copy of the audit on the Capital Region Scene blog.
Michael Dayian, chairman of the Housing Authority’s board, doesn’t view the audit as a negative thing.
“This wasn’t a case of wrongdoing,” he said. “It was just a procedural thing to make sure there’s no wrongdoing in the future.”
He said Miller was an honest and wise executive director for decades. His passing of the reins to interim Executive Director Damaris Carbone, Dayian said, had nothing to do with the audit.
Carbone declined to comment Wednesday.
Auditors also took issue with the authority’s lenient financial attitude toward Rivercrest Development, its subsidiary. Rivercrest is a not-for-profit corporation the authority used to rebuild two derelict Guy Park homes into affordable apartments.
Rivercrest owed the authority nearly $120,000 in various fees at the end of the time period covered by the audit. The report recommends that money be retrieved.
Dayian defended Rivercrest, saying the corporation is part of authority’s strategic plan to rehab more of the city’s unsightly buildings.
“We’re hoping to move into real estate,” he said, “We didn’t want to put our subsidiary into financial problems, especially considering the good they’re doing in the community.”
He said the board is currently working to correct the expense claims oversight problem and looking into Rivercrest Development’s financial feasibility. In all, he said it was a very positive audit.
Late last year, the Comptroller’s Office audited the Saratoga Springs Housing Authority. Among other things, auditors found a similar travel expense oversight issue. However, in Saratoga they found roughly $12,000 spent on unnecessary trips.
“Of all the stuff they could find,” Dayian said of the Amsterdam audit, “this is pretty minor.”