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October 8, 2009

DiNapoli: Former Superintendent Received $739K in Separation Payments at Brookhaven-Comsewogue UFSD

Payments are Four Times More Than at Comparable Districts in Suffolk Co.

The former superintendent at Brookhaven-Comsewogue Union Free School District received $739,000 in separation payments when he left the district, which is four times the amount comparable school districts in Suffolk County provide in their superintendents’ contracts, according to an audit released today by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.

"School district budgets are funded by local property taxpayers and state taxpayers," DiNapoli said. "These taxpayers shouldn't have to foot the bill to provide a $739,000 golden parachute for a departing superintendent. It's important to have experienced administrators leading our school districts, but compensation and benefits at Brookhaven-Comsewogue school district should be in line with similar districts in Suffolk County."

The audit found the former superintendent received three separation payments in the months around his retirement from the district. He received $244,000 in December 2006 for the purchase of a single premium life insurance policy worth approximately $500,000. He also received payments totaling $495,000 in June 2006 and August 2006 for unused sick and vacation leave.

Auditors determined the former superintendent's contract contained unusual provisions that allowed for his unused sick and vacation time to be calculated at rate that was far higher than the rates used at five other similarly sized districts in Suffolk County. The unusually high rate made the former superintendent's separation payments $414,000 to $693,000 higher than he would have received from these other districts.

The former superintendent's contract provided for $232,340 in annual compensation on top of the separation payments. Included in his annual compensation were

  • $191,140 in base salary;
  • $24,000 for an annuity;
  • $9,100 as a car allowance; and
  • $8,100 for life insurance.

The high separation payments also inflated the former superintendent's pension because they were included in determining his final average salary. This allowed the former superintendent to receive an annual pension from the Teachers' Retirement System of approximately $290,700 rather than approximately $202,600, which is the amount he would have received if his separation payments were more in line with similar districts.

DiNapoli's audit also found the district:

  • acquired $695,973 in professional services without seeking competitive proposals;
  • did not have policies over the use of gasoline credit cards and, therefore, increased the risk that the cards could be used to make purchases that were not for district purposes; and
  • did not have effective policies and procedures in place to safeguard the district's computer data and assets.

DiNapoli's office recommends that:

  • the board enter into employment contracts with district officials that provide for a prudent use of district funds and do not result in excessive separation payments;
  • district officials require the district to solicit competition before awarding professional service contracts; and
  • district officials implement procedures to provide reasonable assurance that purchases made with gas credit cards are solely for district purchases.

The district generally agreed with the audit's findings and the district's full response is included in the audit. To view the audit, visit:

School District Accountability
In order to improve accountability of the state's schools, DiNapoli's office will audit all of New York's school districts and Boards of Cooperative Educational Services by 2010. The State Comptroller's office has completed 655 school audits and approximately 75 school audits are currently underway.


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