Cayuga County Legislature refuses welfare-fraud prosecution grant funds
AUBURN — Following a heated discussion, Cayuga County legislators voted 5-1 not to accept Crimes Against Revenue Program grant funds at the Ways and Means Committee meeting Wednesday night. Legislator Paul Pinckney voted for the resolution, and Legislator Patrick Mahunik was absent.
As a result, three people employed through the CARP grant will be let go including an assistant district attorney, a grant administrator and an investigator. The county had already served their termination letters, stipulating that it was subject to the vote, said County Administrator Suzanne Sinclair.
Sinclair and District Attorney Jon Budelmann have been at odds over the bottom line: whether the CARP grant costs the county money, or brings it in.
Budelmann said the CARP grant funds awarded for 2016 equaled approximately $107,000 a year for three years, totaling about $321,000. But he said the $107,000 would only carry the program until July. He planned to look for other grants and funding to sustain it the rest of the year.
Budelmann proposed accepting the grant, using the first year's allotment and revisiting whether the county wanted to continue its participation prior to July. But the committee voted not to accept the grant, leaving the county Legislature responsible for about $35,000 in salary and benefits for the three employees' work in 2016.
Working to trim an approximately $1.5 million deficit, Legislator Mark Farrell said the county relies on Social Services to turn those unqualified for public assistance away. While Budelmann argued that by prosecuting these kinds of crimes his office saves taxpayers millions of dollars, legislators argued that preventive methods also save taxpayers money.
As far as revenue is concerned, Sinclair and Budelmann have different calculation methods with opposite outcomes. Sinclair has the county coming short by $23,704.13 in 2015 and by a projected $74,000 in 2016. Budelmann has the county saving about $22,260 in 2015.
The discrepancies seem to be whether or not to include reimbursement funds from the Department of Social Services. But Sinclair argued that DSS does not reimburse the district attorney's office for those things covered by the CARP grant.
Budelmann, however, said his staff through the grant funds have assisted with DSS cases, which his office would not have had the manpower to take on. Therefore, he argued, that revenue should be included.
"These claims and the work underlying them are a direct result of the personnel funded with this grant and we would not have these prosecutions without the personnel generating them," he said in an email to legislators Wednesday afternoon.
One thing that is consistent — monies brought in from restitution are divvied up with the state. While the DA's office brought in about $39,000 in restitution in 2015, the county received a little over $4,000.Gwendolyn Craig | firstname.lastname@example.org
Feb 17, 2016