Did the Kenmore Housing Authority misuse public funds to throw parties for employees?
That depends on your definition of "parties."
An audit report released this week by the State Comptroller's office accused the authority of using funds for "lavish holiday parties" and travel, rather than for the Authority's purpose.
Kenmore Municipal Housing Director Stephen Stone took issue with the finding and the term "parties." He said the annual year-end dinner costs about $2,500 per year and is a way to recognize the volunteer board and the staff. He said none of the dollars in the business fund are federal money earmarked for housing, but rather administrative fees.
"It's not a party. The seven Board of Commissioners are all volunteers. The staff doesn't get bonuses, which is actually permitted under federal law. Instead we have an annual dinner," he said. "This is not federal money and there is no statutory requirement that says we have to put this in the federal fund."
The two-year audit from July 2015 to March 22, 2017 focused on a $44,000 "recovery fund" which was segregated from the general fund and found issue with more than $13,000, which was "not used in a manner that furthers the Authority's purpose." The report said the Authority spent about $90 per person for its own holiday parties, while spending a total of $250 or $1.29 per person for a tenants holiday party in 2015.
Stone said the fund that was the focus of the audit has been separate from the general fund since it was established in 1995. He said it also has been used for donations to several charities, such as Haven House, Friends of the Mission, and Ken-Ton Meals on Wheels; two college scholarships for residents' grandchildren; an annual tenants picnic; and assisting local families who are facing hardships from fire and health-related issues.
He said in 1995 and 1999, the Authority did some bonding for the University at Buffalo in order to secure low-cost bonds for student housing on Sweet Home Road. The university sought out the the Kenmore Authority because Amherst did not have a housing authority, he said.
In addition to the "parties" the Comptroller audit said the board did not adequately monitor the use of credit cards and took issue with how travel stipends were being used by both board members and staff.
Stone said the Authority has 90 days to submit a corrective action plan to the Comptroller's office. He said one option would be to discontinue the dinner.
The Authority has a $1.1 million budget and provides 100-units of low-income senior housing at two locations.