Stringer Announces Investigation of ACS Program

Stringer Announces Investigation of ACS Program

PHOTO:  City Comptroller Scott Stringer has announced an investigation of the ACS Close to Home program’s contracting and payment methods. This building in South Ozone Park is set to host one of the program’s limited secure placement facilities. File Photo

City Comptroller Scott Stringer on Tuesday announced that his office’s newly-formed Research and Investigations Unit will lead a probe of the Administration for Children’s Services’ use of improper payment methods in the contracting and construction of “Close to Home” placement sites across the city.

“Close to Home” sites house juvenile offenders near their place of residence in Limited Secure and Non-Secure Placement Facilities.

ACS hopes to set up a “Close to Home” LSP facility at a recently-constructed building on a residential block in South Ozone Park; but the proposal has been met with considerable backlash from residents, civic leaders, and elected officials.

“The city did an end run around procurement rules when they set up, paid for and prepared facilities for use as ‘Close to Home’ juvenile detention centers,” Stringer said. “We are going to investigate this program to determine the financial implications of the breakdown in the contracting process.”

Stringer indicated in June that his office had begun an audit of the Close to Home program’s Non-Secure Placement facilities, focusing on ACS’s compliance with regulations and other operational controls.

The investigation announced on Tuesday will be led by the Research and Investigation Unit, which will operate separate and apart from the audit team. Stringer has directed his staff to focus on irregular contracting and payment methods in connection with the construction of Limited Secure detention facilities.

Stringer also noted that earlier this year, his office identified that many city agencies, including ACS, were improperly spending millions of taxpayer dollars using PON1s, a payment method meant to be used for non-procurement expenditures. Because PON1s do not go through the normal oversight and review process, there is limited information available about exactly how these funds are spent and what terms are associated with the spending.

City Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica) has been vocal in his opposition to the South Ozone Park location, and helped organize the efforts of area civic groups to rebuff the city’s efforts to set up shop on 127th Street.

On Tuesday, Wills applauded the probe, but also said that he wasn’t exactly shocked by this latest development in what has been a months-long saga.

“Today’s announcement of his decision to launch an investigation into the contract, itself, is not surprising given the many mistruths and contradictions my office has encountered in its examination of the process that led ACS to locate a Limited Secure site in South Ozone Park. I have every confidence Comptroller Stringer will conduct a fair and thorough investigation,” Wills said. “Nonetheless, our fight lives on.”

By Michael V. Cusenza



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