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State watchdog faults bonuses paid out by Genesee County IDA

A state watchdog has admonished the Genesee County Industrial Development Agency for its bonus payments.

The agency, which operates as the Genesee County Economic Development Center, gave out $340,000 in bonuses to 10 staff members from 2005 to 2009, according to the report released Thursday by the state Authorities Budget Office.

The report found that the bonuses were awarded "although it has no policy for authorizing such bonuses" and that the payouts were not based on individual performance but were determined more like those of a profit-sharing plan used in private industry, the office said in a statement.

The report also highlights that Steven G. Hyde, the agency's executive director and CEO, received a base salary of $153,000, the highest of any such county agency in the state. Hyde got the largest chunk of the annual bonuses, a total of $185,000 between 2005 and 2009, the report found.

The report called for the agency to "recover this unwarranted payment."

Allison Duwe, executive director for the Coalition for Economic Justice, said the report serves as just another example of "the fact that IDAs aren't serving the public the way they should."

Duwe's organization is part of a campaign to reform economic development in the state.

"We should be recapturing those bonuses and spending [the money] on direct job creation," she said of the Genesee agency's payouts.

The agency's board disputed the report's findings.

"We stand by how we've acted," said Jim Vincent, the board's vice chairman. "We strongly disagree and reject their conclusions. We feel our practices are legal, proper and transparent. Because of our significant accomplishments, we are being criticized."

Vincent also stood by Hyde, calling him "the right man on the job."

In the past five years, the Genesee agency has participated in 154 projects and created about 1,360 jobs, Vincent said.

"We've been very successful," he said.

A formal bonus plan based on performance already had been established when the state office reviewed the agency, Vincent said.

No bonuses were given out last year, Vincent said, because goals were not met. Bonuses resumed this year, but Vincent declined to disclose how much they totaled.

Since an initial report written last year, the board has worked on ways to better document the decision-making process, Vincent acknowledged.

"We have more formal documentation in place," he said.

e-mail: mbecker@buffnews.com

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