Comptroller Says Legislative Grant Abused

ALBANY (AP) -

New York state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said a $20,000 pork-barrel grant that was supposed to help a nonprofit group improve the financial condition of Brooklyn residents instead went to pay for an iPad and computers for the family of the group’s president.

DiNapoli accuses the Homeowners Association of Brooklyn of using $20,000 in state funds to buy an iPad used by the president’s granddaughter and a laptop computer used by the president’s husband for personal use, as well as other equipment. The comptroller’s auditors claim that $19,200 of the spending wasn’t proper.

“This vendor was supposed to help individuals achieve the American dream of homeownership,” DiNapoli said. “Instead, she fulfilled her own dreams and allowed her family to use state-funded equipment for homework assignments, iTunes downloads and other personal business.”

Auditors said they found the president of the nonprofit organization had little data on the electronic devices related to the charity and that the president seemed unfamiliar with how to operate some of the devices.

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is working to recover the public money, an aide said Friday.

Homeowners President Carolyn Faulkner denies the claim. She says she has documentation for all the spending and all of it was for use by the nonprofit group, not her family. She says the case is closed.

“It’s certainly not true,” Faulkner said in an interview. “Everything has been allocated in a proper way … everything is closed.”

DiNapoli is referring the case to the attorney general’s office for recovery.

The grant, called a “member item” in Albany, was appropriated years ago in the state budget and was requested by Sen. John Sampson, a Brooklyn Democrat.

The use of the pork-barrel grants as directed by legislators ended under former Gov. David Paterson because of scandals involved in grants going to associates and relatives of lawmakers and because the $200 million annual cost was politically untenable during hard fiscal times.

No new public money has been provided for legislative member items in recent budgets.