New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo Credit: AP

New York State Thursday began seeking data on salaries at nonprofit social service agencies that receive state funding and tax breaks while some of them are paying six-figure salaries.

The task force of personnel from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's administration and legislators wants to evaluate how appropriate the salaries are compared to the agencies' missions and if taxpayers are getting an adequate return.

The task force began sending letters seeking specific data from thousands of nonprofits.

Some nonprofit operators have argued, however, that some six-figure salaries are necessary to attract doctors, effective managers and other professionals to serve often low-income, underserved neighborhoods when they could command much higher wages in the private sector.

Task Force chairman Benjamin Lawsky said he suspects most of the agencies carrying out health care and other services are fine, but "patches of outliers" pay salaries that may be out of whack.

"There are nonprofits who pay very high compensation and the question is, as they receive state funds, what justifies them having nonprofit status, what good works are they doing, and how much money are they receiving from the state and through tax benefits that are going to their good works and how much is going to their top executives?" Lawsky said.

A state Division of Budget analysis in 2010 found nearly 2,000 nonprofit employees were paid $100,000 more for an average of $168,555 and at a total of $324.6 million.

One of the cases that raised Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's concern involved former state Sen. Pedro Espada Jr., whose Bronx health care clinics known as Soundview won a court order this week to stop the Health Department from effectively closing facilities by banning a clinic from the Medicaid system.

A hearing is set for Sept. 19. Espada argues the Health Department action was a "rush to judgment."

Espada, who faces federal charges that he misused government grants for a lavish lifestyle, said in an interview that six-figure salaries, such as the $150,000 paid to his doctors, are needed to attract managers and professionals to serve areas such as the poor Bronx neighborhoods where his clinics serve 24,000 people.

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