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State: Prison official got paid while skipping work

ALBANY - A New York prison official skipped Friday work shifts for 17 years and fraudulently collected pay for the time off, state investigators said Tuesday.

Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and Inspector General Joseph Fisch also said prison management looked the other way. The case has been referred to prosecutors while auditors look for more wrongdoing.

A report on the yearlong investigation said that Howard Dean, now retired as director of the food processing center at the Oneida Correctional Facility in Rome, filed bogus time sheets and travel documents that cost taxpayers $500,000.

"He certainly gave new meaning to casual Fridays," DiNapoli said.

Correctional Services Department Commissioner Brian Fischer said the department has improved internal controls. Spokesman Erik Kriss said Dean's travel status and designated office were changed soon after Fischer took over as commissioner in 2007 and officials became aware of the situation.

In his response to investigators, Dean said he was entitled to take Fridays out of the office because he remained on call and worked long hours on other days. He said supervisors had allowed him to claim the Albany office 90 miles away as his work station to receive daily travel allowances in place of a pay raise.

Contacted Tuesday, Dean, 64, said he had not seen the report yet and declined to comment further. Dean retired in 2008 from the $112,000-a-year job.

"One can liken this to a robbery without a gun with his supervisors operating as lookouts," Fisch said.

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