The Democrats on the Westchester Board of Legislators used their vote in the Board of Acquisition and Contract Thursday to protest a contract with Pace University for work on the county housing settlement. Their statement is below:
Unnecessary $160K Contract with Pace University Wastes Taxpayers’ Dollars
White Plains, NY – The approval of a contract this morning with Pace University for “expert advice and assistance” in ensuring compliance with the County’s obligations under the housing settlement is an unnecessary waste of taxpayers’ dollars, said Ken Jenkins (D-Yonkers), Chairman of the Westchester County Board of Legislators (BOL).
The contract for $160,000 with the Land Use Law Center of Pace University’s School of Law received its approval at the County’s Board of Acquisition and Contract (A&C) in a 2-1 vote. BOL Majority Leader Peter Harckham (D-Katonah), substituting for Jenkins today at A&C, cast the lone no vote against the contract.
Last week Jenkins had consideration of the contract “overed” to today’s A&C meeting, advising on the record that this spending would accomplish the exact same thing—educating local elected officials about fair and affordable housing—which the County’s Housing Opportunity Commission (HOC) is already undertaking.
A video link for the discussion at the August 30, 2012 A&C meeting is below:
(Discussion runs from 7:09 to 10:35 in the meeting.)
“County Executive Astorino and his Administration had an opportunity to postpone or withdraw the A&C resolution for this contract from today’s agenda, which, unfortunately, did not happen,” said Jenkins. “This sizable sum of money that will now effectively pay for work the County should presently be receiving for free, by law, could have gone toward funding adopted by the Board of Legislators for after-school programs that were suddenly cut earlier this year. This lack of financial responsibility on a small scale, unfortunately mirrors the much larger problems we’ve seen the Administration have in terms of getting a handle on the numbers.”
Jenkins also noted that the Astorino Administration officials have also tried to downplay the spending for the contract, incorrectly stating that the funds to pay Pace are not from county taxpayers but are, instead, federal dollars being utilized to comply with the housing agreement.
“The point is that taxpayers are unnecessarily paying Pace Law for work already ongoing by the volunteer Housing Opportunity Commission,” said Jenkins.
According to the County Charter (Sec. 277.391), the duties of the Housing Opportunity Commission include “advocating before the relevant committees of the Board of Legislators, to the County Executive, to the Westchester County Planning Board and to the municipalities for specific and general policies that it feels are appropriate and relevant to the issue of fair and affordable housing need…”
Last week, Westchester legislators learned from County Budget Director Lawrence Soule that unfunded salary and benefit costs associated with new contract agreements negotiated by Astorino and the Administration’s fumbling loss of revenue from the tobacco settlement have the County now facing a staggering $29.7 million deficit.