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Comptroller’s audit: Suffolk youth group was overpaid $194,851

The Selden-Centereach Youth Association at 1550 Middle Country

The Selden-Centereach Youth Association at 1550 Middle Country Rd. in Centereach on Monday, Nov. 27, 2017. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

A new Suffolk comptroller’s audit found that Selden-Centereach Youth Association was overpaid $194,851 for the two years ending Dec. 31, 2016, because it billed for juvenile delinquency services and could not substantiate or failed to deliver.

The disallowance, according to organization officials, amounts to about two-thirds of their entire $291,000 budget, which is “extremely detrimental” to the nonprofit group. Sylvester Bush, the association’s executive director, said the group “disputes the . . . audit findings” but would not go into detail, citing the “exceedingly short time” the county gave them to respond, a claim the county disputes.

Comptroller John M. Kennedy Jr. said many of the organization’s disallowances were because of missing time records and the agency was unable to support the allocation methods it used to pay executive director and other organization officials. The audit also found the organization’s board of directors provided “little or no oversight” of the organization’s expenditures.

“Unfortunately, yet again we have encountered an agency that has a long history with the county and has committed these egregious acts with taxpayer dollars. What’s equally troubling to me is that departmental oversight of this agency is nowhere to be found,” Kennedy said. Kennedy’s spokesman said the audit has been turned over to the district attorney’s office for potential action.

According to the audit, “the agency provided very few of the services required” under their contract. While such programs should typically include formal and informal counseling, peer counseling, rap sessions, drop-in lounges, cultural and recreation programs, employment programs and education programs, the audit found that “the only services provided by the agency were minimal counseling sessions, a food pantry and volunteer opportunities.”

The youth group got funding from the county youth bureau under a county Juvenile Delinquency Prevention Program that was administered through the Town of Brookhaven.

Bush maintains the association “remained in compliance through the years” and “no red flags were raised” until the end of 2016, when it was told that “additional documentation may be required.” He also noted the town has informed the group that that county has withheld its 2017 funding in light of the audit outcome.

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