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Audit faults Monroe County in contract for golf courses
An audit accuses Monroe County of mismanaging three golf courses costing taxpayers a quarter of a million dollars in the last two years alone. It was released by the New York Comptroller's office and follows a 13 Wham Waste Watch investigation.
"I feel somewhat vindicated, but it doesn't go far enough," said whistleblower Eddie Gartz who first alerted us to problems last year.
The 27 page report says the operator contracted by Monroe County pocketed $250-thousand that should have gone to maintaining courses. It also raises new questions about a lack of book-keeping that involves even more cash.
"We believe in the long-term the county is going to wind up picking up the tab. And when I say the county I mean you, me, taxpayers," said Gartz.
Gartz walks the courses daily and also plays regularly at Durand Eastman. He showed us deep craters, poor drainage, and diseased greens. After pouring through years of maintenance records for all three courses, 13 Wham News uncovered questions about whether taxpayers were cheated out of hundreds of thousands of dollars of permanent improvements and upgrades.
The $250-thousand in the audit cover only the last two years. The courses have been managed by a company owned by Jack Tindale for the last 17 years. Calls left at all three golf courses for Tindale were not returned.
Monroe County takes issue with the figure saying it results from a disagreement over accounting standards that dictate what qualifies as a capital expense.
"The real shame is the county decided to ignore us and this went on for years and years," said Frank Choromankis. He golfs three times a week at county courses and has gone to the county over the years with complaints.
The audit says the county failed to be the watchdog for taxpayers. Critics say it should have gone further. "I thought the audit might say those people should be held accountable for not doing their jobs," said Choromankis. "They didn't do their jobs and we have all these problems now."
The audit raises new questions, saying Tindale did not provide daily receipts of deposits to show greens fees were properly collected and turned over to taxpayers. Instead the county received only a monthly summary report.
"As a result, county officials cannot be sure that all moneys collected were properly recorded and deposited or that Tindale's calculations of payments due to the county were based on a verified amount," the report concluded.
Monroe County takes issue with the findings and says they don't reflect more recent agreements with the Tindale operation. However contracts were not re-written nor were these recent agreements sent to county lawmakers for approval.
Gartz says he remains troubled because Tindale was running a cash-only operation. Golfers were required to pay greens and car fees in cash-no credit cards. "Having an all-cash business just lends itself to the appearance of impropriety," he said.
He is now calling on county lawmakers to refer the matter to the Attorney General to conduct a criminal investigation. "It's their contract. They have to want this looked into," he said. "The questions is whill they do it?"
Monroe County's full response from Parks Director Larry Staub and Chief Financial Officer Robert Franklin:
"Today's report covers no new ground from the leak of the Comptroller's draft weeks ago, so the final product remains flawed and laced with trivial criticisms. We understand the Comptroller feels the need to make headlines in an Election year, but it's a stretch to suggest course experience was diminished by grievances as minor as the availability of Snickers at snack stands. The County looks forward to restructuring course management - a plan that was finalized a year prior to this report - in addition to choosing a new vendor through a competitive selection process in the near future."