The Videotape of January 15, 2019
Deficient Financial Past v Potential Financial Prospect
The Hezitorial Revealing a Vendor’s Conflicted Responsibility, Controlling Political Influence Emboldened by Campaign Donations, Wanting Fiscal Controls, Failed Financial Analysis, Deficient of Known Best Practice, Stealth Political Operative
Telling Reveals Mayor, Yonkers City Council, and The People Kept Ignorant and Unaware
The Yonkers City Council Must Learn to Serve the Public Interest Rather than the “Family and Friends Network” of Sychophants
The $55 million shortfall “said” to have been designated for the Yonkers Public School (YPS) District and defined as such to the Yonkers Board of Education (YBoE) Board of Trustees was caught blindsided after it was recognized that the funds “allegedly” promised had not materialized about a year-and-half after the “alleged” allocated funds were expected by the YBoE.
Nick DeSantis, a partner in the firm of PKF O’Connor Davies, LLP, was the City of Yonkers’ Auditor. He was hired and rehired from one administration after the other for decades.
The relationship between DeSantis and the City of Yonkers (CoY) evolved over time. From one-time Yonkers Acting City Manager since 1984 to becoming a partner in the firm of PKF O’Connor Davies, LLP at present. He would become favored CoY auditor, engaging the task and responsibility in auditing the Yonkers Industrial Development Agency (YIDA), and the Yonkers Board of Education (YBoE). Therein is one aspect of the issues revealed described herein. He climbed the ladder becoming part of the “family and friends network”. Yet upon reflection, despite having learned the intricacies and vagaries over fiscal concerns, he has yet to steer beyond the financial constraints that have been a burden to the taxpayer, stymying Yonkers’ potential. He professes his erudite comprehension of auditing and the remedies learned in Yonkers and beyond for some 34 years yet he has not been a catalyst in guiding CoY from the financial peril it faces year after year. His immersion in fiscal management and auditing for some 34 years in Yonkers has proven to be debauched by his inability to guide CoY from the dangerous shoals it seems to skirt. His legacy is not one of prudent guidance. And it is at this juncture that one learns he can advise but he cannot demand compliance. If he is not sufficiently instrumental in guiding best fiscal practice for CoY, who then makes the final decisions that run astray of appropriate guidance for Yonkers’ prudent financial course and conduct. If anything, his lack of definitive guidance has only mired CoY in political discourse behind closed doors, financial doom and gloom, and his own self-preservation in holding onto CoY’s fiscal reigns gleaning no relief to the taxpayer.
No one recognized the $55 million shortfall until the YBoE had already spent $40 million of an allocation that did not then or thereafter materialize. Finger pointing became the obfuscating game plan. No one was in charge, no one understood what transpired, no one could prove in writing the “alleged” allocation, when it was signed, or even by whom; or worse still, it was never divulged. The outcome was a wake-up call that smarted as would a hard slap across the face. Alas the remedy fell on the back of Yonkers taxpayers to compensate for the “error” by borrowing the funds after submitting to an inter municipal agreement (IMA) between New York State and CoY. The deficiency, the IMA agreement, the cost of the bond, and interest accruing over time has come to exacerbate the financial standing of CoY to the detriment of Yonkersites, the City of Yonkers, the YBoE, YPS District, teachers, employees of every stripe, and pupils of every grade level.
Maintaining his position as the chosen auditing vendor has engaged DeSantis and his firm in what may best be described as a “quid pro quo” return on investment. DeSantis and his firm are quick to donate to fundraising drives to those who vote for his being hired every time a re-election is anticipated or campaign efforts are underway. DeSantis has become adroit in “donating” to one campaign after the other to those who may have say in his appointments and / or reappointments.
DeSantis is evidently a consummate politcal operative, protected by his “friends and family network” standing. One may surmise he is more capable at influencing those who preside in his gaining his contract than guiding CoY toward a fiscally prudent course.
DeSantis rattles the Yonkers City Councilmembership as they scurry for his donation, dividing those who recognize the failings over many years with the prospect of the membership failing to garner voter support with financial backing toward their election / re-election efforts
Yonkers Tribune has learned that the Yonkers City Council is quick to pander to the wants of DeSantis to gain his financial backing. The City Council membership have tied their vote over renewing DeSantis’ contract to the financial backing from DeSantis despite DeSantis’ inability to direct CoY to a better financial outcome. That may be the “conflicts of interest” that weigh on the City Councilmembership’s eventual vote to again approve or deny DeSantis’ / PKF O’Connor Davies, LLP contract with CoY, YIDA, and YBoE. Yonkers residents will suffer the consequences as attested to the lack of prudent oversight of Yonkers fiscal standing for over three decades.
Lest anyone suggest that DeSantis / PKF O’Connor Davies, LLP were not sufficiently responsible for the YBoE or the YIDA when the $55 million crisis first came to light, one must ask since DeSantis / PKF O’Connor Davies, LLP was overseeing and auditing CoY’s books, and all payments emanated from the Department of Finance, why the year-and-a-half pending $55 million crisis was not discovered within a few months’ time? And why the Office of the Finance Commissioner continued to pay bills when funds were not in the city coffers. DeSantis could not have been blind to this fiscal reality. Yet that would be proven not to be the case over time.
That historical perspective leads to only one conclusion, that their capacity as auditors has proven wanting.
Yonkers New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has advised that best practice is to change vendors so that different perspectives may bring about a more prudent and efficacious outcome, asking for a formal request for proposal from other firms may also be fiscally advantageous.
If CoY was so skillful in its fiscal guidance, why has CoY languished in the same monetary hole for those same three decades, vacillating from $25 million to $90 million all those years. In 1984, CoY, the fourth largest city in the state with 195,000 people then anticipated a deficit of $71 million over the upcoming 17 months. Until the Wednesday meeting of that revelation, Yonkers officials had been saying that the deficit stood at between $12 million and $15 million for the remainder of the current fiscal year which ended on June 30, 1984. In his Albany report, Mr. DeSantis confirmed those figures but added, in a 15-page report, that the 1984-85 gap now appeared to be as much as $56 million, according to the former Yonkers Mayor and the NYS Lieutenant Governor Alfred B. DelBello.
The takeaway, as anyone may surmise by this telling, is that not much has changed. Some of the very actors then on the scene continue to be immersed with the same reality then that continues to this day. CoY is still the fourth largest city in New York State. The population then was 195,000 people as opposed to just shy of 200,000 today. The deficit is said to be one figure, yet turns out to be 4 ½ times greater than it was initially said. The anticipated FY2019-2020 Budget will also be in the same neighborhood as then, somewhere in the $65-$75 million deficit.
Albany will exact a cost for CoY’s slow response to its fiscal travail. Despite three people in the room, one who is the Senate Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers), Yonkers will have to engage in fiscal pruning and increased real estate valuations and commensurate tax increases, among other disciplines that will weigh heavy on Yonkersites’ capacity to define a sustainably prudent fiscal demeanor.
So what will it be Yonkers? More of the same with the commensurate outcome or a new vendor whose oversight of fiscal policy has proven worthy of their employ elsewhere and may thereby be tasked to do likewise in Yonkers.