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May 25, 2010

DiNapoli: State Recovers $150,000 From Bus Company

Employees Transporting Disabled Children Did Not
Have Criminal Background Checks

A State Comptroller’s audit of the state Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (OMRDD) led to the recovery of nearly $150,000 from a bus company that billed for services it never provided and failed to do criminal background checks for some of its employees who worked with developmentally disabled children, New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli said today. In addition, if there were not enough escorts on a given day then friends were allowed to “fill in.”

“The most important thing we need to do is protect our children,” DiNapoli said. “These are developmentally disabled children. We cannot take chances and put kids at risk, and we can’t have ‘friends’ filling in. This cannot be allowed to happen again.”

Bernard Fineson Developmental Disabilities Service Office, a facility of OMRDD, contracted with Coastline Transportation, Inc., located at 984 East 28th Street in Brooklyn, to transport developmentally disabled children between Bernard Fineson’s Howard Park location in Queens Village and the children’s schools. Coastline was required to provide escorts to oversee and assist the children.

DiNapoli’s auditors found that Coastline did not have evidence that all drivers and escorts had necessary criminal background checks, nor did Bernard Fineson effectively monitor the company to ensure the safety of the children for whom it was responsible. Auditors found evidence that Coastline allowed one driver to drive children for 141 days before removing him from service because of concerns identified in his background. Coastline’s owner also told the auditors that drivers and escorts were allowed to ask a friend to “fill in” on days when the assigned escorts were absent.

Auditors also identified a communication breakdown between Bernard Fineson and the main office of OMRDD. Auditors found that OMRDD’s Criminal Background Check unit received the results of criminal background checks for those providing service to facilities. OMRDD did not share this information with facilities because officials did not believe they were legally authorized to do so. However, officials at the Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) disagreed with OMRDD’s opinion. In addition, auditors found that Coastline charged Bernard Fineson for 108 buses and almost 1,500 escorts it didn’t provide. As a result of the audit, Bernard Fineson implemented controls to protect children and no longer uses a third-party vendor to transport its children.

OMRDD agreed in general with the audit findings.

Click here for a copy of the audit.


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