Resignation of parks director during audit raises questions
Updated: Monday, January 13 2014, 08:14 PM EST
Rochester, N.Y. - The same week Monroe County announced it will sever ties with the manager of its golf courses- comes word the parks director who oversees the contract is leaving his post too.
Larry Staub has been appointed to an open seat on the Monroe County Legislature. Both moves come as a state investigation is underway into the golf contracts.
The timing raises issues with democrats. "The only time the county administration will take action on various problems is when the comptroller and his staff come in and initiate audits," said Paul Haney, (D) Rochester.
Democrats who've long called for their own internal audit of the golf contract now wonder if something the state uncovered is prompting the county to make changes to get out in front of the investigation's release.
In a Waste Watch investigation 13WHAM News discovered evidence of poor maintenance at Monroe County's three public courses. For example we found deep craters, diseased greens and poor drainage issues at Durand Eastman in June. Since 1997 management of the courses has been outsourced to Jack Tindale.
Parks Director Staub stands behind what he told us at that time: "Tindale and his company have provided the county with every penny that was due to us."
Under the contract, taxpayers receive 19.5 percent of greens fees collected and 5 percent of all sales. Yet the value of the contract for taxpayers goes beyond the cash.
After pouring through years of maintenance records obtained through the Freedom of Information Law, 13WHAM News uncovered something else. Questions about whether taxpayers were cheated out of hundreds of thousands of dollars of permanent upgrades and improvements that were contracted for, but never made.
"They've paid for everything in the contract. Ultimately they're not getting everything in the contract," said golfer and taxpayer watchdog Frank Chormankis. By his own estimate taxpayers lost out on a half million dollars' worth of improvements.
On Friday the county announced it had ended the contract three years early by "mutual agreement." Democrats are skeptical about the timing. "The very same week they purported to have made this decision was the same week in August the Comptroller announced there was going to be an audit," said Legislator Haney.
What might the state audit uncover? Our Waste Watch investigation found taxpayers were supposed to have access to a golf pro and a restaurant at each course. At Churchville Chili the restaurant has been taken over by the pro shop.
Before the restaurant itself closed it had failed repeated health inspections.
"We believe there's more to this and the players believe there's more," said legislator Joe Morelli Jr, (D) Irondequoit. He has other concerns that making repairs to the courses will cost taxpayers further.
Larry Staub declined comment. 13WHAM News is waiting for a response from Monroe County.
A spokesman for the comptroller's office says local officials are often made aware of the audit as it progresses and take action before it's released. He could not comment further or say when the audit would be completed.