Niagara Gazette

March 3, 2014

State agency awaiting audits from Joseph Davis State Park group

By Mark Scheer
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — The New York State Authorities Budget Office is still waiting for annual audits and budget reports from a local development corporation created to oversee operations at Joseph Davis State Park. 

Earlier this year, the ABO, which oversees the activities of authorities across New York, has placed the Joseph Davis Local Development Corp. on its list of entities it considers “delinquent” in filing financial documents as required under state law. It marks the second time in as many years the ABO has “censured” members of the corporation’s board for failing to file audits and annual budget reports. 

LDC representatives have said that they are in the process of dissolving the corporation so there is no need for them to file. 

ABO Director David Kidera said last week that while his office received a letter in October indicating that the dissolution process is under way, his agency has not yet received confirmation the corporation has been formally disbanded. 

Until it does, Kidera said, ABO policy calls for the LDC to be treated as active and therefore subject to all applicable reporting requirements. 

“We have to have some confirmation that they no longer exist,” said Kidera, who noted that the dissolution process requires confirmation from the courts and the New York State Attorney General’s Office. 

Officials in the Town of Lewiston formed the LDC to oversee operations at Joseph Davis park after budgetary constraints prompted the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to turn maintenance responsibilities over to the town. LDC board members had hoped to improve the appeal of the park and discussed plans to develop various amenities, including a hotel and conference center. The projects never moved beyond the discussion phase. 

During a meeting in October, five of the seven members of the corporation’s board voted to dissolve and completely liquidate the entity’s assets.

LDC representatives previously said that the corporation had not assets and no financial activity and, thus, had nothing to report. Costs for LDC-related services, including funds tied to LDC attorney Michael Townsend and Rochester-based consultant, Lou Giardino, were covered by the town itself, according to members. 

In an emailed response to the Gazette, Giardino directed all questions to town officials, saying his company is no longer involved in the Joseph Davis project. 

Town of Lewiston attorney Mark Davis said he was under the impression the dissolution process had been completed, but was not directly involved in the process as he was not town attorney at that time. He indicated he would join Town Supervisor Dennis Brochey in investigating whether or not the dissolution process had been completed and directed additional questions to Townsend. 

An associate in Townsend’s office said he was out of town this week. A telephone message left in his office was not returned.

Under Section 2800 of Public Authorities Law, public authorities are required to file annual reports and audits within 90 days of the end of the fiscal year. Local authorities like the Joseph Davis group must file within 60 days. 

According to the ABO, the Joseph Davis Local Development Corp. failed to file its budget report by the Nov. 11, 2013 due date. It also has not submitted an annual report and audit by March 31, 2013 as required. The ABO contends that LDC officials failed to meet similar reporting deadlines for the fiscal year ending 2012.

Kidera previously described the LDC’s failure to comply as “unacceptable,” warning that his agency could take “appropriate corrective action” should the situation continue. Additional steps available to the ABO include initiating legal action to access records, books and financial documents held by the LDC. The ABO has the power to subpoena all records and documents held by the LDC board if necessary. 

If the LDC is officially dissolved, Kidera said the ABO would no longer consider it out of compliance and would not require audits or budget reports to be filed for 2012 or 2013. 

Contact Mark Scheer at 282-2311, ext. 2250.