January 11, 2012
DiNapoli: Pension Cuts for Former DOCS Boss who Cheated State
State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli's office is recalculating the pension of a former director at the state Department of Correctional Services (DOCS) after an investigation by DiNapoli's office found that he took Fridays off for 17 years at taxpayer expense.
Howard Dean, 66, of Locke, N.Y., pleaded guilty last year to second degree grand larceny and is awaiting sentencing by Oneida County Judge Barry Donalty. On Tuesday, Judge Donalty postponed Dean's sentencing to May 10. The case is being prosecuted by Oneida County District Attorney Scott D. McNamara.
Meanwhile, the Comptroller's office has cut Dean's annual state retirement benefit by nearly $4,000 and is seeking recovery of $13,500 in pension payments made since his 2008 retirement, based on his admission that he was paid for 17 years of Fridays which he did not work.
"This recalculation and the prosecution sends a key message to any abuser entrusted with public funds: we will find you, we will hold you accountable and we will make you pay," DiNapoli said. "My office will not tolerate abuses of the state pension system. When a person commits fraud which boosts their pension benefits, we will aggressively seek to cut their payments to account for their theft to the full extent of the law."
DiNapoli is pushing proposed legislation to elevate official misconduct to a felony and force public officials to pay penalties of up to twice the amount gained by their crimes.
The New York State Constitution prevents pension forfeitures in such cases. Under DiNapoli's proposed legislation, for example, former Senator Carl Kruger, who recently pleaded guilty to bribery and mail and wire fraud conspiracy and admitted to taking up to $500,000 in bribes, would have been subject to more than $1 million in penalties.
An investigation and audit by DiNapoli and the state Inspector General's office found that Dean defrauded the state of nearly $500,000 in unearned salary and improper perks while serving as director of the DOCS Food Production Center in Rome, N.Y.
DiNapoli's auditors also found that Dean submitted false time sheets and travel vouchers, asked state vendors for free food and donations for their picnics and holiday parties and steered $2.5 million in business to those vendors from 1992 to 2008, when Dean directed the "cook-chill" Food Production Center at the Oneida Correctional Facility in Rome.
Dean freely admitted to auditors that he did not work Fridays for 17 years and the investigation concluded that he had the support of senior management in many of his improprieties. Since then, DOCS has indicated that it has improved internal controls and trained staff to identify fraud and abuse.
DiNapoli encourages the public to help fight fraud and abuse. New Yorkers can report allegations of fraud, corruption or abuse of taxpayer money by calling the toll-free Fraud Hotline at 1-888-672-4555, by filing a complaint online at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by mailing a complaint to: Office of the State Comptroller, Investigations Unit, 14th Floor, 110 State St., Albany, NY 12236.
For copies of the Comptroller's earlier audits, visit: http://www.osc.state.ny.us/press/video_press_releases/may10/food_boss_01.htm (April 2010)
http://www.osc.state.ny.us/press/releases/aug10/083110.htm (August 2010).