Officials at Erie Community College (ECC) gave more than $100,000 in raises and bonuses to senior officials without proper approval, according to an audit released today by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.
“Our auditors found a lax control environment in which significant decisions were made out of the view of the board, the public and students,” said DiNapoli. “I urge ECC’s board of trustees to take a more active oversight role and address the deficiencies outlined in this audit.”
DiNapoli’s auditors discovered during the period of September 2010 through February 2015, college officials created 10 senior executive positions with annual salaries averaging $75,600 and totaling $756,000 without written authorization from the board of trustees. The college also provided these employees with benefits including health insurance and retirement benefits with an annual cost of more than $200,000.
As noted in the audit, college officials also made questionable compensation payments to two senior executives totaling $77,000 and increased the salaries of all senior executives by 2 percent, totaling $27,000, again without board approval.
According to State University of New York regulations governing community colleges, the ECC board lacked authority to delegate the power to establish salaries and approve raises.
The Comptroller’s audit also revealed:
- The leave records of senior executives were inaccurate and, as a result, executives accumulated $25,000 worth of leave time they were not entitled to;
- A retired executive cashed out an overstated leave balance upon separation, resulting in a $2,500 overpayment;
- The college paid 11 professional service providers a total of $440,000 without using requests for proposals (RFP) or other required competitive processes;
- The college did not enter into written contracts with eight professional service providers for services totaling $342,000, as required; and
- Financial transactions between the college and the Erie Community College Foundation and the Auxiliary Services Corporation of Erie Community College were not documented properly or conducted in a transparent manner.
DiNapoli made a series of recommendations to ECC to improve oversight, accountability and transparency of college operations.
Recommendations to the board of trustees include:
- Ensure significant financial decisions such as the creation and funding of new positions are conducted in an open and transparent manner;
- Authorize all salaries, compensation and fringe benefits provided to senior executives;
- Adopt comprehensive time and attendance policies for senior executives;
- Enter into written contracts with professionals establishing the services to be provided, the time frames for those services and the basis for compensation;
- Ensure that written agreements with affiliated entities stipulate how performance will be measured and evaluated; and
- Review student activity fee allocations provided to and used by clubs and organizations to determine whether the amount of the fee is appropriate and necessary.
Additional recommendations to college officials include:
- Ensure that all official action taken by the board, including actions pertaining to salaries and benefits, are recorded in the board minutes;
- Procure professional services using a competitive method such as an RFP process; and
- Review documentation to verify that the college has obtained state contract pricing.
Although officials with ECC did not agree with all of the audit findings, they have indicated the board of trustees has already taken action to address a number of recommendations made in the report.
For a copy of the audit and the college’s response, visit: http://www.osc.state.ny.us/localgov/audits/colleges/2016/eriecommunity.pdf
For access to state and local government spending, public authority financial data and information on 50,000 state contracts, visit Open Book New York. The easy-to-use website was created by DiNapoli to promote openness in government and provide taxpayers with better access to the financial workings of government.