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State audit questions payments to Lockport housing chief

LOCKPORT – A state audit released Tuesday claims that the Lockport Housing Authority is making unapproved payments to its executive director, a contention the director and the board chairman denied.

The state Comptroller’s Office said Executive Director Kevin Bancroft is receiving the authorized salary of $76,996, but it questioned extra payments: a $150-a-month vehicle allowance and Bancroft’s sellback of some of his vacation time for $6,853 in cash for 2015.

The report asserted that those payments never were approved by the authority’s board, a claim denied by Bancroft in an interview and by board chairman Gerald R. DeFlippo in a letter to the Comptroller’s Office.

Bancroft criticized the state audit process. “They took the first two or three months they were here to decide what they were going to audit,” he said. “Finally, they decided their audit was going to be about payroll.”

Comptroller’s Office spokesman Brian Butry said, “That’s typical of our process once we’ve done our initial assessment.”

In fact, the authority board approved the practice of a vacation sellback in December 2012, but the audit complained that the Lockport Common Council should have been asked to approve that and the car allowance.

The Council is required to approve the salaries at the Housing Authority, and the mayor makes some appointments to the authority’s board, but that is the extent of the city’s involvement with the agency.

“None of our money comes from the city, none whatsoever,” Bancroft said. “It all comes from rentals or from HUD (the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development).”

DeFlippo wrote in his reply letter that the car allowance is considered reimbursement for business-related driving, not part of Bancroft’s salary, and thus doesn’t need Council approval. The vacation time is in Bancroft’s contract, the letter contended.

“I wouldn’t do that if I had time to take a vacation,” Bancroft said. “It’s a challenge running a housing authority.”

City Clerk Richelle J. Pasceri said the Common Council approved the management salaries in December, but the authority gave the Council only a list of percentage increases, not the actual salaries to be paid. The state audit claimed that was improper.

“All we’ve ever done in the past, in the existence of the Housing Authority, they’ve only approved our pay raises,” Bancroft said.

He said the authority board approved a car allowance for the executive director in a move that predated Bancroft taking the job six years ago.