Ed Day, Rockland County Executive
Nov. 22, 2016
Contact: Jane Lerner, Director of Strategic Communications
Office of the County Executive (845) 638-5645
County Executive Day announces plans regarding Human Rights, Community Development offices
NEW CITY, NY — Rockland County Executive Ed Day announced today five actions he is putting in place regarding the county Department of Human Rights and Office of Community Development.
"Both departments serve crucial roles in county government. We will not be deterred from making sure that the business of the people of Rockland is carried out," he said.
These are the actions he announced.
• First: Dr. Penny Jennings will remain in an administrative role in the Office of Community Development. In this capacity, she will continue to ask the questions that need asking – no matter where the answers lead. She will continue the work she has already started to sort out how public funds have been allocated by this department and how that money has been used.
• Second: Day assigned Myrnia Bass-Hargrove to oversee the departments of Human Rights and the Office of Community Development. Ms. Bass-Hargrove now serves as Rockland's director of Community Relations, a post she will continue. In this role, she will collaborate with Dr. Jennings in many areas.
• Third: The county has started legal actions against two entities that have failed to pay back taxpayer funds loaned in the past by the Office of Community Development. The first is PAL Auto Sales of 51 Route 9W, West Haverstraw, and three members of the Palladino family. The second is Community Outreach Center of 11 Remsen Ave., Ramapo.
• Fourth: Effective immediately no Community Development Block Grant programs will be funded unless they are reviewed and approved by both the county attorney and county auditor.
• Fifth: The county will bring in a forensic accountant as necessary to examine the books in this department.
"In short, we inherited a mess and we are taking definitive steps to address that mess," Day said. "We will not be deterred from holding agencies and businesses accountable for the public funds that they are granted."
Day said that his administration has been concerned for quite some time about issues in the Office of Community Development.
He instructed a prior director to go in there, figure out where the problems are and fix them.
Unfortunately, that directive was not carried out effectively. That person is longer with county government.
Dr. Jennings was brought in as Human Rights Commissioner and director of the Office of Community Development.
Among the problems she identified are loans that are not repaid, lack of records regarding interest due on loans and general lax accounting.
Then, for the first time in Rockland history, her confirmation was not approved – an unprecedented action by the Legislative majority.
"We all know the truth: Some people don't want her to continue looking into this department," Day said. "We do."
Day is directing her to continue her work. HUD is also investigating.
"We will not be deterred from holding agencies and businesses accountable for the public funds that they are granted," he said. "We will have many eyes watching these funds."
Appointing Dr. Jennings as an administrator will enable her to continue to do the excellent work that she started to account for all funds coming in and out of that office.
Her initial work uncovered issues with seven businesses and agencies throughout the county that were give loans. Dr. Jennings helped negotiate agreements with five of the entities.
Those loans are now in good standing: the people of Rockland are being made whole.
Rockland County has started legal action on behalf of the taxpayers of Rockland to recover funds from the other two entities.
The county attorney has filed a breach of contract complaint in Rockland County Court against PAL Auto.
PAL was given a $100,000 loan in 2012 to buy inventory. The company stopped making payments on the loan in 2014. The remaining principal, $81,660, is in default.
The county attorney has also put Community Outreach Center on notice that we intend to file for foreclosure against property at 11 Remsen Ave., Ramapo.
Community Outreach Center was given $800,000 in public funds in 2008 to build a community center at 11 Remsen Ave., in Ramapo. That amount included a $300,000 loan that was supposed to be repaid beginning in 2009.
To date, no payments have been made. After eight years and $800,000 there is still no community center on the site.
Both instances are unacceptable, Day said.
"With taxpayer dollars comes responsibility," he said. "On behalf of the taxpayers, we want to know what happened to this money."