The local program is now in its fifth and final year. A steering committee oversees the program. Mary Beth McGowan was hired as the coordinator. Rensselaer County is the fiscal agent.
The County has accused Ms. McGowan of failing to fill out grant applications and allowing funding for the program to dry up. She has also been accused of failing to follow proper purchasing procedures. Others blame the steering committee or the County or both. As in many such situations (too many people and groups involved) there's probably plenty of blame to go around. Even the Department of Justice admits that it is a difficult program to administer. (for a good background on this, see Jim Franco's November 15, 2004 artice in The Record).
A scathing 2003 Justice Department audit found that Rensselaer County had taken some of the money earmarked to help North Troy and spent it on the County's own Auto Thief Program. That should help give you an idea about who has bookkeeping problems.
Who is at fault for the mess? Good luck figuring that one out. That's not the interesting part in this nonsense. In fact, the interesting part has little to do with who may be to blame for poor bookkeeping.
Ms. McGowan had to file quartley financial reports with the Department of Justice. The reports, known as SF269's, were prepared by Ms. McGowan and faxed to the Office of the Comptroller
On April 16, 2004, Ms. McGowan filled out and signed the SF 269 for the period: 1/1/04 - 3/31/04. The balance of funds was $144,044.29. Ms. McGowan then faxed the report to the Office of the Comptroller.
Interestingly, the form itself states that the report is to be submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice. The person signing the document also certifies that the report is correct and complete.
On June 7, 2004, Margaret Brennan called McGowan to say that the Office of the Comptroller could not find her (McGowan's) report for the period: 10/103 - 12/31/03. McGowan was told that she could now electronically submit the forms. McGowan tried this but did not have the password. McGowan was told that only **** ******** had the pass word.*
Mysteriously, there is another SF 269 for the period: 1/1/04 - 3/31/04. This form was not filled out by hand. It was filled out on a computer for electronic submission. McGowan's name is on the form but, obviously not her signature. This SF 269 is dated May 11, 2004. The balance on this form is $96,680, over $45,000 less than on McGowan's form.
Why is this significant? Because McGowan e-mailed **** ******** on June 7, 2004 saying she needed the password to access the Federal GMS system. ******** replied on June 7, 2004:
They locked me out due to an incorrect password. I'll try after they reset it. Usually, the user name is ********* and the password will be reset to *********. For some reason it isn't working.
Then, on June 9, 2004, ******** e-mails McGowan with the updated user ID and password.
The issue? First, where's the $45,000+? Did that find its way into the County's pockets? Secondly, if the May 11, 2004 SF 269 was submitted to the Feds, it wasn't by McGowan. She didn't have the password to access they Fed system. Why the discrepancy in budget balance? Why did someone send the Feds a report purportedly certified by McGowan when it clearly was not certifed by her? Who lied to the Feds?
If McGowan's April report was innacurate, corrections would be necessary. That we understand. Even so, why fool the Department of Justice into believing McGowan signed off on that May 11, 2004 report? So many unanswered questions.
* McGowan was told this individual was the only one with the password. However, that is not confirmed. Others at the County could have had the password. We would hate to imply that this individual was the person who created and/or submitted the May 11, 2004 report.