Almost two months ago, Ulster County Comptroller March Gallagher published an audit her office performed on Ulster County’s Cares II Small Business Assistance Program. This program was initiated to provide financial assistance to small businesses struggling during the COVID crisis. It was funded with $1,000,000 and administered by the Ulster County Economic Development Alliance (UCEDA).
The audit found, among other things, that:
1. More than half of those entities awarded grants were in fact ineligible.
2. Contractual requirements governing the implementation of the program were “either IGNORED or misinterpreted in the administration of the program and the ultimate announcement of grant awardees.”
3. The program requirements were either misunderstood or “INTENTIONALLY MISCOMMUNICATED” by the former President of the UCEDA who was charged with implementing the program.”
4. The submission of ineligible applications to the scoring was “… a serious oversight that compromises the integrity of the grant award process.”
These are serious findings and made no less so by the fact that the program was put on hold before any funds were expended. One must ask why the program requirements were not followed and why so many ineligible grant applications were approved for awards.
We are almost two months removed from the release of the audit findings and to date we have heard nothing from the District Attorney’s office. This audit demands an investigation to determine if the failures identified were the result of gross neglect or in fact criminally motivated.
Yet neither DA Clegg or his Chief Emmanuel Nneji have taken any action, nor even performed a preliminary investigation to determine if there is something untoward going on here. That office has an obligation to investigate findings like those contained in the Comptroller’s audit. If criminality is found, responsible individuals should be held to account. If not, the public should be advised accordingly, and by that action help to restore public confidence “in the integrity of the grant award process”.
March Gallagher has demonstrated her commitment to keeping the Comptroller’s office an independent and apolitical agency. The public deserves the same from the DA’s Office.
Independent Candidate for Ulster County DA