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City audit probes Pomonok Center

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The questions about the Pomonok Neighborhood Center, which provides after-school programs, activities for senior citizens, summer camp, crime victim assistance, domestic violence counseling and housing assistance, go back to 2003-04, when the facility received funds through New York city and state contracts, Thompson said.According to the comptroller's office, state Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn (D-Flushing), whose district includes the Pomonok development, requested the audit in 2005 after her office uncovered a pattern of questionable vendor payments, improperly authorized checks and unsubstantiated liabilities."I am outraged that people entrusted with funding intended to benefit the children of our community apparently abused that trust and used the funds as their own personal piggy bank," Mayersohn said.One contract and a grant, both for undisclosed sums, were with the New York State Office of Children and Family Services and the New York City Housing Authority, Thompson said. The center also had five contracts worth a total of $597,165 awarded by the city through the departments of Youth and Community Development, Aging and Housing Preservation and Development, he said.At first, auditors were analyzing whether Pomonok spent the funds received through city contracts but broadened the investigation when they noticed a number of apparently improper salary payments, the comptroller's office said. Auditors have since found that Pomonok may have made improper payments totaling $83,037 to four employees, Thompson said."It appears that the youth program director attempted to systematically exhaust the personal service funds allocated for the youth programs by manipulating his own timesheets as well as [those] for his daughter, his live-in girlfriend and his girlfriend's son," Thompson said. "The youth program director hired these individuals in direct violation of Pomonok's agreement with the Department of Youth and Community Development; they reported directly to him, and he approved their timesheets."The comptroller's office said auditors determined that Pomonok also made a total of $95,493 in questionable salary payments to other employees and $24,469 to vendors, received $2,250 in improper payments from the Department of Youth and Community Development, incorrectly authorized checks from city-funded programs and may not have held the required number of board of directors meetings. Pomonok also misrepresented its finances, overstating its liabilities by more than $700,000, Thompson said.The comptroller said Pomonok's management structure significantly changed while the audit was carried out and that during the summer of 2005 the executive director, youth programs director and senior center program director were fired, and that Pomonok's board of directors hired the Forest Hills Community Center to operate the facility.

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