Governor Cuomo announced the creation of “NY Responds” – a comprehensive new approach for coordinating and strengthening the State’s emergency preparedness. As part of NY Responds, for the first time ever, every county in New York State will have access to universal emergency management software. This software – provided at no cost to localities – will enable both local governments and state agencies to submit and share vital disaster-related information, ranging from incident reports and resource requests to real-time tracking of assets and weather conditions.
Additionally, Governor Cuomo announced the state is supplementing its stockpile of emergency response resources with an additional $50 million worth of equipment in advance of the winter storm season. This will include 130 SWAT plow trucks, 62 tow blowers, 16 snow plows, 16 loaders, 11 graders, 10 medium dump trucks with plows, eight truck blowers, and two high axel vehicles.These announcements correspond with the Governor’s Emergency Planning Summit, held at the State’s Emergency Management and Training Academy in Albany.
NY Responds will anchor New York’s emergency planning and response mechanisms with unprecedented levels of coordination between state agencies and local governments. The core components of NY Responds include:
Universal Statewide Emergency Management Software – For the first time in state history, every county in New York State will have access to the same emergency management technology to provide and receive updates on local disasters. Local governments will now have one system for entering detailed incident specific information and local resource requests; monitoring request prioritization, status and decisions; and accessing a common operating snapshot that shows other relevant incidents in the region.
This universal software package being made available to counties includes Mutualink, a new technology solution that integrates telephone, radio, video and file sharing into one, interoperable application. This enables local emergency staff to share seamless, real-time information with the state and other counties.
Currently, counties throughout New York State utilize a variety of competing software systems – or have no emergency management software whatsoever. This new, universal technological infrastructure will significantly enhance the ability of local and state officials to respond quickly and accurately to disaster incidents, prioritize and reallocate resources as needed, and ultimately monitor the progression of a disaster from beginning to demobilization. Access to the new system, as well as the required training, is being provided to each county free-of-charge by the state.
Incident and Asset Tracking – This universal software will be aided by state of the art mapping and location technology, which enables faster development of a common operating picture. The enhanced system allows for access to more than 100 data layers, such as power outages, traffic cameras, and status reports on critical infrastructure.
Additionally, the state has installed global positioning units in approximately 1,840 vehicles operated by DHSES, the State Department of Transportation and the State Thruway Authority. This allows the state to remotely track the location and status of critical emergency response assets such as plows, dump trucks and utility vehicles in real time. The state has also installed GPS units on crucial stockpile items such as generators, light towers and sandbaggers. Positioning units are also set to be installed in approximately 1,400 other DOT vehicles.
Weather Forecasting – The statewide emergency management software will also be complemented by real-time weather forecasting and modeling through the New York State Early Warning Weather Detection System (Mesonet). When completed, the 125 Mesonet sites around the state will feed real-time data to the National Weather Service and enhance the emergency management response of both state and local governments during severe weather events. More information about the Mesonet system is available here and at nysmesonet.org.
The rollout of NY Responds to all counties is estimated to cost $1.5 million with additional annual maintenance costs of $406,000.
NYS Multi-Agency Coordination (MAC) Forward Operations Plan
Also announced is the new New York State Multi-Agency Coordination (MAC) Forward Operations Plan, which establishes clear lines of communication between the state Emergency Operations Center in Albany and local elected officials. The new protocols drive the way the State uses its systems and technology and the manner in which local governments tap State resources. Revisions will be made to the current Emergency Management Certification and Training program to support the goal of better coordination and communication with local partners and ensure a uniform and cohesive approach to emergency management.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that New York State is expanding its efforts to prevent colorectal cancer, the state’s second leading cause of cancer death. Over five years, $8 million in federal grants will go toward new screening initiatives that will be administered by the New York State Department of Health. Each year, nearly 10,000 New Yorkers develop colorectal cancer and more than 3,000 die as a result, however with regular screenings, many of these diagnoses and deaths can be prevented.
Colorectal cancer screenings look for small growths or ‘polyps’ that could turn into cancer. Most colon cancers start from these small growths, but if found through screening they can be removed before they turn into cancer. Early stage colorectal cancer may not always cause symptoms, making regular screenings the key to early detection.
This 5-year grant, awarded from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will support the expansion of screening efforts by the Department of Health’s Bureau of Chronic Disease Control in traditionally underserved and high need areas in the North Country, Syracuse, Buffalo, Rochester and New York City. The first component provides $732,400 per year to support work with Federally Qualified Health Centers and Medicaid Managed Care Plans for evidence-based interventions that promote regular colorectal cancer screenings. This includes providing feedback to providers about patients eligible for, but not up to date with screening, sending patient reminders and implementing strategies to reduce barriers like transportation assistance and paid time off for cancer screening. Specific organizations slated for funding are yet to be determined.
The second component provides $915,500 per year to target eligible uninsured and underinsured residents between the ages of 50 and 64 years in the Bronx, an area identified as having an elevated level of late-stage colorectal cancer cases. In addition to providing funding for the screening tests, this grant will support patient navigators at three key New York City Health and Hospital Corporation health facilities, all serving the uninsured in the Bronx: Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center, North Central Bronx Hospital and Jacobi Medical Center. The use of patient navigators has been shown to be a highly effective strategy for removing barriers and facilitating screening completion.
Governor Cuomo announced support and protections for HIV-positive individuals and their families through $2.5 million in grants awarded to 11 organizations across the state which provide these individuals with access to various legal services.
Aside from the inherent medical costs of living with HIV, many HIV-positive individuals are faced with an array of costly legal issues. This includes everything from developing a living will and assigning health care proxies to securing safe housing, obtaining needed public benefits, and addressing discrimination practices. This funding helps ensure that HIV-positive individuals and HIV-affected families have access to services that address these issues, as well as services that help protect dependent children.
Many parents lack the resources to move toward making a care and custody plan legally binding. The funded organizations provide support to families with dependent children in order to help HIV-positive parents and identified caregivers make future care and custody decisions related to adoption, custody and guardianship. Additionally, new caregivers, often grandparents or other extended family members, are offered support as they assume parental responsibility for HIV-affected dependent children in the form of legal and psychosocial services.
Governor Cuomo has sought to make New York a leader in the effort to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic, both nationally and globally, by setting a goal of ending AIDS as an epidemic in the State by the end of 2020. Earlier this year, his “Ending the Epidemic Task Force” delivered its final blueprint for fulfilling this goal and since that time, major steps have been taken to implement the plan’s three main pillars of: (1) expanding HIV testing, (2) ensuring that everyone with HIV can get treatment, and (3) increasing the availability of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), a medication that helps HIV-negative individuals reduce their risk of becoming infected. This includes maximizing viral suppression among persons living with HIV who are Medicaid recipients or in the state corrections system.
The Housing and Supportive Services Committee of the Task Force specifically identified the need to increase access to legal services for HIV-positive individuals and their families. These grants address this concern and are a concrete step towards improving the lives of all New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS.
Governor Cuomo announced that emergency regulations have been adopted by the State Department of Health to prevent the spread of Legionella bacteria and protect New Yorkers from future outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease. These first-of-their-kind statewide regulations take effect immediately. The framework for these emergency regulations was drafted in consultation with the New York City Mayor’s Office and City Council representatives.
Additionally, the Governor announced that the Department of Health has launched a general tip line (1-888-769-7243) to respond to questions or inquiries regarding the regulations from members of the public, as well as engineers, technologists and technicians.
Governor Cuomo signed legislation that will require tattoo and body piercing studios in New York State to use single-use needles and single-use ink for all procedures performed within their establishments.
State law previously did not hold tattoo or body piercing specialists to any standard regarding the products and materials used for tattooing or piercing. This bill (S.1421/A.1334) will now require tattoo and piercing specialists to use single-use ink and needles during all tattoo and body piercing procedures. Single-use ink and single-use needles come in sealed, sterile packages and are intended for only one use.
In addition, the new law will require both the specialist and the person receiving the tattoo or piercing to sign a consent form confirming that the specialist: (1) presented all single-use materials to be used during the procedure in a sterile and sealed package and (2) opened all single-use materials in the presence of the person receiving the tattoo or piercing. The new law will require the tattoo or piercing studio to give a copy of the consent form to the person receiving the procedure and require the studio to retain a copy of the form for at least seven years.
This bill would take effect 120 days after becoming law.
Governor Cuomo signed legislation that will ensure Saranac Central School District receives full state aid for the 2014-2015 school year, despite not meeting the 180 school day requirement. The schools are eligible for a waiver due to extraordinary circumstances, where they faced unexpected closures surrounding the search for two escaped inmates from Clinton Correction Facility in Dannemora.
“Saranac officials made the right decision in the name of safety and through no fault of its own, its funding was put at risk,” said Governor Cuomo. “This legislation corrects this unfortunate situation and ensures that the district and its student body don’t pay the price of the actions of these two criminals.”
By law, school districts are required to be in session for at least 180 days in order to receive their full allotment of state aid, and for each day that they are short, they lose a small portion. The Commissioner of Education is authorized to waive shortfalls in certain limited circumstances, but in this case the Saranac Central School District would not qualify under current law.
Accordingly, this bill (S.5938 / A.8221) authorizes the Commissioner of Education to grant a waiver ensuring that neither the district nor students are penalized.
Governor Cuomo signed legislation that will prohibit the sale of any powdered or crystalline alcohol product, also known as “palcohol,” in New York State.
This powdered, freeze-dried alcohol is sold in small bags and is intended to be mixed with water to create alcoholic drinks. It is readily portable and easy to conceal in its powdered form — increasing the ability for underage youths to gain access to it. Additionally, mixing incorrectly or ingesting it in its powdered form can lead to unsafe levels of intoxication.
With the signing of this measure, (S.1757A / A.8043), New York is joining more than 20 other states that have banned the substance.
Governor Cuomo signed legislation that will make business easier for craft beverage companies in New York State. These three measures will allow farm distilleries to sell gifts and souvenirs, authorize retail stores to conduct tastings of liquor, beer and cider, and exempt micro-breweries from redundant tax filing requirements.
Allows Farm Distilleries to Sell Gift Items
Prior to this bill (S.4800 / A.7001), farm distillers were the only group among farm breweries, cideries and wineries that were not authorized to sell gift items, such as locally produced food and souvenirs. Now, they will be able to sell those items along with non-alcoholic beverages as well as liquor supplies and accessories.
Authorizes Tastings at Retail Stores Without Presence of Manufacturer
Additionally, retail stores that sell beer, cider and liquor will now be able under the bill (S.5333-A / A.8043) to conduct tastings without the manufacturer or wholesaler present. Previously, a representative from the manufacturer or wholesaler of the product had to be present at the store and conduct the tasting. For many small businesses, this was an unaffordable expense and now, they will not be required to be present in order for their product to be sampled.
Exempts Micro-Breweries from Certain Tax-Filing Requirements
The third bill, (S.4282 / A.7106) will exempt micro-breweries from certain tax requirements. These filing mandates put a burden on small businesses that are often not equipped to handle the data collection needed to comply with the law. Most of the beer that they produce is already accounted for in distributor sales, making it a redundant task. Farm breweries are currently relieved from submitting the annual information sales tax return, and this law will allow micro-breweries that same exemption.
Governor Cuomo announced a new state effort to educate bar owners, security, and staff of licensed establishments about new security features included on driver licenses, permits, and ID cards issued by the state. A new electronic brochure will be distributed to thousands of bar owners across the state that provides a description of the advanced security features in these forms of identification to make it easier for owners and staff at establishments with liquor licenses to authenticate them and identify fake IDs.
The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and State Liquor Authority teamed up to create the brochure that outlines security features on the new ID cards (view here), which DMV began distributing in 2013. More than half of the cards currently in circulation are the more secure, redesigned version, but the old style remains valid until the expiration date is reached. The new security features, which are among the most advanced in the nation, are highly resistant to tampering and are designed to prevent identity theft.
Motor vehicle investigators work closely with local police, New York State Police and sheriff’s departments across the state in underage drinking enforcement, targeting facilities that are identified as the “last drink location” for individuals who are under 21 and arrested for DWI, including concert venues and bars across New York. Those under 21 are given a vertical ID card, making it easier for bar owners and those who check IDs to identify who is underage.
Revamped, state-issued ID cards include the following features:
- Vertical card: Anyone under 21 years old is issued a vertical card.
- Under ultra-violet light: Highly detailed ultra-violet graphics cover the front surface of the card, including a map of New York State, starbursts in the left corner, and fine line graphics in the clear window.
- Polycarbonate material: The cards have a unique metallic sound when dropped on a hard surface.
- Laser-engraved photo: The photo is burned into the card on a background of fine line graphics.
- Tactile laser engraving: You can feel the raised lettering on the ID number, birth and expiration dates, and signature.
- Anti-copy ink colors and rainbow printing: The card is manufactured using fine line color graphics that are difficult to reproduce on a color copier or photo printer.
- Secondary photo in clear window: The secondary photo is burned into the car with laser engraving. The clear window has clean, beveled edges.
- Variable wave pattern: The “wave” features the license holder’s name as a continuous string of variable sized text, which transitions through the clear secondary photo window.
- Back of the card: The signature and address change boxes on the back of the card have a matte finish that is flush with the surface.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that he is deploying Department of Financial Services’ Mobile Command Center to four Mohawk Valley locations to offer advice and assistance to New York consumers, as part of his “Capital for a Day” initiative to bring state government to the Mohawk Valley. The deployment is focused on assistance related to two specific issues: homeowners at risk of foreclosure and borrowers facing difficulties with student loans.
DFS representatives will be available to meet consumers in the agency’s Mobile Command Center (MCC) at the following locations:
- Thursday, Aug. 20 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. – Jervis Public Library, 613 N. Washington St., Rome.
- Friday, Aug. 21 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. – Utica Public Library, 303 Genesee St., Utica.
- Saturday, Aug. 22 from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. – Gloversville Public Library lot, 58 E. Fulton St., Gloversville.
- Saturday, Aug. 22 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. – Amsterdam Free Library lot, 28 Church St., Amsterdam.
Individuals unable to meet personally with DFS representatives may call the Department’s consumer help hotline at 1-800-342-3736, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Consumers may also use the Department’s website, www.dfs.ny.gov, to find additional information or file complaints.
Governor Cuomo announced the grand opening of Tech Valley Center of Gravity’s new facility inside downtown Troy’s historic Quackenbush Building. Through a $550,000 Capital Grant from Round lll of Governor Cuomo’s Regional Economic Development Council Initiative, the tech incubator partnered with Quackenbush Properties, LLC to perform $2.75 million in renovations to the Collar City landmark and create a facility large enough to support startup companies, spur job creation, and encourage commercial development throughout the Capital Region.
Established in 2012, Tech Valley Center of Gravity promotes manufacturing innovation through the use of shared space to grow ideas and inventions. Its membership includes five universities, four high schools, more than 300 entrepreneurs and 40 companies, all of which have supported the creation of more than 250 jobs in the region.
The Capital Region Economic Development Council identified Tech Valley Center of Gravity as a Round III priority project due to its established success and fulfillment of the Council’s goal of bringing the region’s cities to life by advancing the restoration and use of an historic property. With the addition of new members and increased interest from entrepreneurs and startups, Tech Valley Center of Gravity quickly outgrew its former location at 35 Fourth Street in Troy and will now occupy 20,000 square-feet of the 158 year old building for the next ten years.
The new facility will also house Tech Valley Center of Gravity’s THINQubator, a facility which empowers children and families to think, collaborate, skill-build, and design. Through hands-on experience, kids explore science, technology, engineering, art, and math in an engaging, fun format.
Another 23,148 square-feet of the Quackenbush Building has been designated available and is ready to lease through Hudson Valley Community College’s START-UP NY program. START-UP NY offers new and expanding businesses the opportunity to operate tax-free for 10 years on or near eligible university or college campuses in New York State.
The 50,000-square-foot, four-story Quackenbush building, located at the corner of Broadway and Third Street, was constructed in 1857 and served as a dry-goods store until 1937. The building subsequently housed local businesses before being vacated in 2001.
Governor Cuomo announced that the New York State Medal of Valor, the state’s highest military award for heroism, is being awarded to New York Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Marlana Watson, an Army medic, resident of Lindenhurst, and veteran of the War in Afghanistan.
Watson, age 28, is being recognized for an incident which occurred on the night of Nov. 5, 2014, when she rushed from her home in Syracuse out into the street when she heard gunfire. She found two teenage boys shot and bleeding on the ground. Heedless of the risk of further gun fire, Watson began administering emergency medical care to the boys and took charge of the scene, directing bystanders to assist in their treatment and call 911 while waiting for the police to respond.
The award will be presented to Watson tomorrow, August 19 at the Farmingdale Armed Forces Reserve Center by Major General Patrick Murphy, the Adjutant General of New York. The New York State Medal for Valor is awarded to members of the New York National Guard who display valor, heroism, courage or gallantry either in a military or civilian capacity.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the award of a construction contract for a $32.5 million project to replace the Rexford Bridge carrying State Route 146 over the Mohawk River between Rexford in the town of Clifton Park, Saratoga County and the town of Niskayuna, Schenectady County. Construction may begin as soon as this fall.
The new Rexford Bridge will have four lanes – wider than the existing two-lane bridge – to better accommodate traffic volumes. An additional travel lane will be built in each direction from Riverview Road in Rexford to Aqueduct Road in Niskayuna. Additionally, a multi-use trail will be built on Route 146 and over the bridge to connect Riverview Road with the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail on the Niskayuna side of the Mohawk.
The project also includes building a roundabout to replace the traffic signal at the intersection of Route 146, Williams Street and Aqueduct Road in Niskayuna, as well as intersection improvements at Riverview Road in Rexford.
While major construction is expected to begin in spring 2016, tree clearing could begin this fall. The contract team for the project will immediately begin working on securing necessary permits and finalizing the bridge design. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2017.
Governor Cuomo announced that construction has begun on a $6 million project to repair 17 bridge decks along the State Route 104 corridor in the town of Webster, Monroe County.
A combination of maintenance actions will be taken on each of the bridges along Route 104 between Dewitt Road and Salt Road to improve the structures’ overall condition, as well as provide a smooth riding surface for motorists. Work includes repaving, sidewalk improvements and repairs to bridge decks, joints and concrete.
Structures being addressed as part of this project include
- the bridges carrying Dewitt, Bay and Five Mile Line roads over Route 104; and
- the bridges carrying Route 104 eastbound and westbound over Maple Drive, State Route 250 and Gravel, Hard, Holt, Phillips and Salt roads.
Construction will begin in the westbound direction on the bridges over Salt Road, Phillips Road and Route 250. Travel will be reduced to a single lane along this stretch through October. Work will resume in the spring.
Governor Cuomo announced funding for phase II of the restoration of the historic Erie Canal locks in Lockport built in the 1840’s, also known as the Flight of Five. The restoration is the centerpiece of a comprehensive economic development and downtown revitalization strategy called the Locks District Redevelopment Plan for the City of Lockport. When complete, the restoration of the Flight of Five is expected to annually draw 230,000 visitors and generate $17 million in spending for the City. An increased CFA award of $615,493, approved by the Western New York Regional Economic Council will allow the city to complete the restoration of lock 68 and make it fully operational.
The total cost of the locks restoration project (locks 67-71) is approximately $10 million. Phase I was completed in summer 2014, for approximately $2.6 million and completed the restoration of locks 69 and 70.
In the fourth round of the CFA, the WNY Regional Economic Development Council recommended Phase II of the Locks Restoration project as a priority project and awarded $700,000. An increased CFA award of $615,493 from ESD will allow the City to complete the restoration of lock 68 and the miter gate between locks 68 and 69 to make lock 68 fully operational. Once this portion of the project is complete, three of the five historic locks that make up the Flight of Five would be restored. Increased funding will also allow for the installation of an arched bridge and completion of an interpretative gateway exhibit that will denote the importance of the Locks District and draw the attention of visitors to the Flight of Five.
New York state continues to have high levels of foreclosure activity with new foreclosure filings remaining significantly higher than prerecession levels, according to a report released by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.
Foreclosure filings rose rapidly after the housing bubble burst and the recession of 2008-2009 took hold. Between 2006 and 2009, the number of new foreclosure cases filed jumped from 26,706 to 47,664, an increase of 78 percent. In 2011 and 2012, new filings declined as new court rules were issued requiring lenders to affirm their claim to the property.
Since reaching a low of 16,655 in 2011, new filings climbed to 46,696 by 2013 before falling to 43,868 in 2014, still well above prerecession levels.
The Comptroller’s report shows the number of pending foreclosure cases grew by 27 percent from the beginning of 2013 to May 2014 (from 72,183 to over 91,600). Since then, the pending caseload has remained fairly steady at over 90,000.
Areas immediately outside of New York City (Long Island and the Mid-Hudson region) have the greatest number of pending foreclosures and have seen the number of pending foreclosure cases rise 63 percent from 25,097 at the beginning of 2013 to 40,985 two years later, according to the report.
Pending foreclosure cases across upstate grew by 47 percent while New York City saw a 10 percent drop over the same two-year period.
The state’s courts’ efforts to work through a large backlog of foreclosure cases are exacerbated by the state’s complicated judicial foreclosure process, but a number of state governmental entities, including the Unified Court System, the Department of Financial Services and the Attorney General, are making efforts to resolve cases that have become stalled, to monitor properties with delinquent mortgages and to return vacant abandoned properties to productive use.
DiNapoli previously reported on the foreclosure problem in 2012, highlighting the impact on local governments in New York state.
New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli announced his office completed the following audits:
Town of Allegany – Financial Management (Cattaraugus County)
Overall, the board properly managed the town’s finances. However, the board did not review the budget-to-actual status reports the comptroller provided and has not developed a multiyear financial plan.
Chili Public Library – Board Oversight (Monroe County)
The board provided adequate oversight of library finances. However, the board did not audit and approve claims from the private funds account prior to their payment. This increases the risk that errors or irregularities would not be detected and corrected.
Clyde Fire Company, Inc. – Controls Over Financial Activity (Wayne County)
The treasurer controls all aspects of the cash receipts and disbursements processes without any oversight or mitigating controls, such as independent review of his work. In addition, the company’s audit committee has not adopted policies or procedures for financial operations such as conducting fundraising activities, purchasing goods and services, and processing claims.
Village of Cohocton – Cash Receipts (Steuben County)
Prior to the commencement of the audit of the village, an audit of the town of Cohocton identified fraud linked to the former town clerk. During the audit of the town, village money was found deposited in a town account. The audit of the village revealed cash receipts were not properly safeguarded and accounted for in the treasurer’s office.
Concord Industrial Development Agency (CIDA) – Agency Management (Erie County)
The board has not taken sufficient action to initiate new projects and encourage the creation or expansion of new business, significantly affecting CIDA’s viability. CIDA has not taken sufficient action to reduce expenditures.
East Brentwood Fire District – Control Environment and Expenditures (Suffolk County)
The board did not ensure that the secretary included sufficient detail in the board’s meeting minutes, did not comply with town law relating to commissioner elections and did not properly document relevant payroll information. The district also has no policy regarding credit card usage. Auditors reviewed 177 food, travel and credit card expenditures totaling $86,337 and found that the board did not ensure that these expenditures were adequately supported and valid prior to approving them for payment.
Town of Essex – Internal Controls Over Selected Financial Operations (Essex County)
Auditors found that four employees in 2013 and six employees in 2014 did not receive the correct gross pay. These employees had combined overpayments totaling $4,759 and combined underpayments totaling $852. In addition, state and federal income taxes were not withheld in accordance with employees’ withholding allowance certificates and the proper amounts were not deducted for health insurance premiums from any of the employees’ gross pay during the audit period.
Town of Exeter – Records and Reports (Otsego County)
Although the supervisor provided the board with accurate monthly budget-to-actual reports, the balance sheets included inaccurate account balances. Moreover, the last time the supervisor filed the annual financial report was for the 2010 fiscal year and the tax levy limit calculation has never been filed since the inception of the property tax cap law for the 2012 budget year.
Town of Middlefield – Budgeting (Otsego County)
Although board members followed town procedures when developing budgets, they consistently adopted unrealistic budgets. The board relied on one-time revenues to fund operations and used budget estimates that did not reflect historical trends. Further, the town-wide general and the town-outside-village highway funds had operating deficits for four straight years totaling $45,200 and $127,400.
Village of Sag Harbor – Board Oversight and Justice Court Operations (Suffolk County)
The board allowed budget line items to be routinely over-expended and budget transfers to be made after the end of the fiscal year, rather than throughout the year when needed. The court clerk maintains up-to-date accounting records, however, the justices and village officials did not establish proper controls to ensure the court clerk properly accounted for all issued parking tickets.
Town of Sand Lake – Justice Court (Rensselaer County)
The justices did not ensure that accurate monthly bank account reconciliations were being performed by the clerk, which should be part of their month-end accountability analysis. Furthermore, the justices did not deposit all collections in a timely manner.
Town of Saugerties – Information Technology (Ulster County)
The board needs to improve internal controls to effectively protect the town’s computer system and data. Specifically, the board needs to review user access and restrict administrative rights to those who need such rights to perform their jobs. Furthermore, the board has not developed computer security and disaster recovery plans, and has not established a breach notification policy or a comprehensive inventory policy for all hardware and software.
Schoharie County – Stream Restoration Project and Contract Process (2015M-87)
The board did not provide adequate oversight of the planning and execution of the stream restoration project. In addition, the board did not always ensure that county contracts were properly approved, monitored and paid. No procedures were taken to ensure the lowest possible cost was paid for 18 of 28 professional service contracts totaling $1.2 million.
Smithfield Fire District – Controls Over Financial Activities (Madison County)
The board does not review cash receipts, bank statements, canceled checks or bank reconciliations while conducting the annual audit, causing the audit to be ineffective. Also, the treasurer has not submitted the required annual financial reports to the Office of State Comptroller for the 2010 through 2014 fiscal years.
Town of Springport – Financial Management (Cayuga County)
The board did not provide adequate oversight and management of the town’s financial operations within the town-wide general fund. Also, town officials have not developed policies and procedures to govern budgeting practices and the level of fund balance to maintain and have not communicated long-term plans for the building reserve to taxpayers.
Village of St. Johnsville – Records and Reports (Montgomery County)
Numerous bank account balances did not reconcile to their corresponding cash balances in the accounting records and had total differences ranging from $4,437 to $6,514 per month. In addition, the village filed its annual financial reports to the Office of State Comptroller late for 2011-12 fiscal year and has not yet filed its reports for 2012-13 or 2013-14 fiscal years.
Uniondale Public Library – Procurement (Nassau County)
Library officials did not always seek competition when procuring goods and services. For example, auditors found that officials paid a professional service provider and an insurance broker a total of $90,912 without soliciting competition.
Town of Virgil – Justice Court Operations (Cortland County)
The town justice generally ensures controls are in place to safeguard moneys, however, the justice does not ensure the clerk is pursuing collections of unpaid traffic tickets. As a result, the court had 17 unpaid tickets during the audit period that represent $2,900 in uncollected fines and fees.
Village of Washingtonville – Village Hall Building Project and Board Oversight (Orange County)
The board did not properly plan and provide sufficient oversight and management of the village hall building project. As a result, the second floor of the building is incomplete and unusable more than three years since the start of the project. In addition, the board needs to improve its oversight of village financial operations. Auditors found the former mayor increased his annual salary without the board’s formal authorization.
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced an agreement with Purdue Pharma, L.P. (“Purdue”), a pharmaceutical manufacturer of the long-acting opioid, OxyContin. The agreement strengthens and makes permanent an internal Purdue program aimed at preventing its sales staff from promoting the powerful painkiller to health care providers who may be involved in abuse and illegal diversion of opioids. The agreement also requires Purdue to disclose financial relationships with any individuals, including doctors and other health care professionals, who appear on the company’s “unbranded” websites that endorse the benefits of pain treatment, including the website www.inthefaceofpain.com.
Between the 1990s and 2011, prescriptions of oxycodone more than doubled in the U.S. and sales of the product increased more than tenfold. Between 2008 and 2011, OxyContin, the company’s brand name for its long-acting oxycodone pills, accounted for approximately 10% of the total oxycodone prescriptions in New York State. During this time period, according to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the number of opioid painkiller prescriptions filled by New York City residents increased by 31%, from approximately 1.6 million to approximately 2.2 million, with oxycodone accounting for 53% of those prescriptions.
Between 1997 and 2011, there was also a sharp increase in the prevalence of opioid addiction, which in turn has been associated with a rise in overdose deaths and heroin use. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in New York State, from 2003 to 2012, deaths involving opioid analgesics increased five-fold, from 179 in 2003 to 883 in 2012.
Purdue, like many drug companies, employs sales representatives who visit physicians’ offices to encourage them to prescribe the company’s products to their patients, with the representatives receiving a bonus based on the number of prescriptions written. Purdue’s Abuse and Diversion Detection Program (ADD), sometimes referred to as “Region Zero,” requires its sales representatives to report to the company any facts that suggest a health care provider to whom it markets opioids may be involved in the abuse or illegal diversion of opioid products. When a provider is reported under the program, Purdue conducts an internal inquiry regarding the provider to determine whether he or she should be placed on a “no-call” list. If a provider is placed on this list, Purdue sales representatives may no longer contact the provider to promote the company’s opioid products.
The Attorney General’s investigation, which began in December 2013, revealed that in certain instances, Purdue may have failed to take the necessary steps to ensure that their sales representatives: (a) properly flagged all professionals who were potentially involved in the abuse and diversion of opioids, and (b) stopped calling on providers on the company’s “no-call” list.
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced a targeted advertising campaign and consumer education initiative to help New York homeowners spot, avoid, and report mortgage rescue scams. Mortgage rescue scams prey on homeowners who are in foreclosure or at-risk of foreclosure. Typically, the scammers will provide what seems like a lifeline out of foreclosure, but then will bilk the homeowner while providing little or no help.
The advertisements will target homeowners in areas of the region hardest-hit by these scams, appearing on Billboards and in Facebook ads, particularly in ZIP codes that have reported these types of scams most frequently. The ads will direct homeowners to AGScamHelp.com where homeowners can find access to the Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP)- a network of almost 90 housing counseling and legal service agencies funded by the Attorney General to provide free services to homeowners facing foreclosure. Schneiderman launched the web based app in December of 2014 in response to an uptick in complaints from lawyers and housing counselors about the prevalence of mortgage rescues scams.
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced that as a result of an interim agreement with Citigroup Global Markets, Inc. (CGMI), a subsidiary of Citigroup, more than 15,000 CGMI customers who were overcharged fees on their investment accounts will receive reimbursements totaling more than $4.5 million. Customers were overcharged when CGMI failed to rebate certain customers’ accounts after periods of inactivity when fees should not have been charged, but were. CGMI identified the overcharges as part of an internal review conducted in cooperation with the Attorney General’s investigation of CGMI fees. The investigation previously led to $16 million in principal and interest going back to 31,000 CGMI customers, and now thousands more customers are eligible to get money back.
“My office will work with any financial institution that identifies and wants to correct an error that harmed its customers. In this case, Citi’s cooperation with our investigation will result in $20.5 million being refunded to tens of thousands of Citi customers in New York and elsewhere,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “I want to thank Citi for its continued cooperation with our investigation, which has ensured that Citi customers are getting back the money they deserve.”
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced the arrest and arraignment of Amy Shultz, 35, a Registered Nurse from Hamlin, on charges that she allegedly diverted nearly 73 narcotic pills from elderly patients residing at St Ann’s Home in Irondequoit.
An investigation launched by Attorney General Schneiderman’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and the New York State Department of Health’s Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement (BNE) revealed that over a three week period of time, Amy Shultz allegedly falsified facility records by indicating that she administered narcotic drugs to seven separate residents, when she allegedly diverted those drugs for her own personal use. In one case alone, Shultz is accused of stealing 23 Hydromorphone pills from a resident and falsifying the records to cover up the theft.
Shultz was arraigned before The Honorable Joseph Genier in the Town Court of Irondequoit and was charged with four counts of Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree (E Felony), and eight counts of Petit Larceny (A Misdemeanor), The E Felony charges carry a potential sentence of one and one third to three years in state prison. The case was adjourned to October 13th.
The case was investigated by Investigators David Giudici and Jason Rice with assistance from MFCU Deputy Chief Investigator William Falk, and BNE Investigator Kristine Wiant-Sherman. The case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Timothy McFarland. Catherine Wagner is Director of the Rochester Regional MFCU Office and the Upstate Chief of Criminal Investigations. The Medicaid Fraud Control Unit is led by Acting Director Amy Held. The Division of Criminal Justice is led by Executive Deputy Attorney General Kelly Donovan.
The Attorney General’s Office thanks the New York State Department of Health’s BNE Unit for their invaluable assistance on this case.
The charges against the defendant are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.