At a recent Finance Committee meeting on July 15th, 2015, council members were addressed by Gregg Swanzey, Director, Economic Development and Strategic Partnerships Department (EDSP) alleging that there were ‘serious’ grant management issues of seven of Kingston’s grants, and in particular those coming from Kingston’s Parks and Recreation office.
As far as we know to date, the directors of both departments have not yet sat down together to discuss these items – line by line – with their reports.
Based on video of the meeting, it appears that the EDSP office was charged by the Mayor to work on a report (that took approximately 8 weeks) to present to the Common Council’s Finance Committee. Apparently, the Parks and Recreation department received the report two weeks prior to respond in time for the July 15th meeting (although without a formal communication request by Parks and Recreation to be added to the evening’s agenda, the department was not officially allowed to respond during the meeting, although there are moments where they did as you will see in the video).
Generally, elected/appointed officials or citizens who wish to move something through to council start by sending a ‘communication’ to council president to be added to an appropriate committee so to present. An action for the committee to take is generally (if not always) requested which is then either approved out of committee and moved to council to vote or, kept on the agenda for further review and discussion.
In this case, the result (since there wasn’t any formal action being made) was for there to be an audit of all City of Kingston’s grants (suggested by Finance Committee chair Maryann Mills that evening).
The request for a citywide audit of grants, however, did not pass through Council in August. No further request or action has since been made on the subject based on press reports.
Before any further steps are taken by Kingston’s highest office that might further burden the public and cost more taxpayer monies, citizens should request that both Kingston’s Economic Development and Parks and Recreation Departments sit down face to face, having each a report of their own, to identify which are actual issues and which are not – and then, to proceed from there.
The meeting is roughly transcribed and included below so that citizens can follow along, as it can be hard to follow if you haven’t any background on this matter.
GS Gregg Swanzey
MM Maryann Mills
MD Matt Dunn
BW Brad Will
BS Brian Seche
ND Nina Dawson
SN Steve Noble
JN Jim Noble
DB Deb Brown
SS Steve Schabot
AZ Andy Zweben
KG Kevin Gilfeather
5:02 – Introduction and what action is the Economic Development office asking for?
8:44 – GS: This is a legitimate exercise with “primary documents”
9:59 – GS: Review of Parks and Rec Grants.
10:11 – GS: Economic Development office gives background.
13:50 – GS: “Primary documents” and not just conjecture.
15:07 – GS: “It’s not all the grants, but it’s ones where we had the information and we were able to forensically figure out what was going on with the grants.”
15:22 – GS: “We had not gotten information placed on the S Drive”
16:30 – GS: “Most problematic was allocation of time for the match that involved “in-kind” our applying our time to the grant.”
17:28 – GS: “Problems with process. They are requiring all documentation before they can reimburse the city You have to send everything in signed by employee and supervisor. 30% MWBE. More stringent. Didn’t just happen over night.”
18:42 – GS: Summary of grants via table in the front of his informational packet.
20:45 – GS: “There are people rallying, and I’m really impressed by their dedication. It’s not only going to help Kinderland, but the tennis courts at Forsyth.”
21:49 – GS: “Primary documents”
21:51 – GS: Problems too with recycling coordination and outreach grant opportunities. Unless we can show 50% time on task by recycling coordinator, we can’t go for the $92,000 worth of funding. “Highly unlikely we can prove that.”
22:25 – GS: Steve Noble is the grants manager and recycling coordinator. He’s got hours in for the zoo, fishing doc, one of the issues. 50% to be applied to the zoo. 50% time applied for money for recycling. 120 hours for the fishing doc. other grants that aren’t here that require more time. “There is not way in the world someone can work more than 100% of their time. Not possible to be reimbursed at all.”
24:54 – GS: I do have ‘primary documents’ if we can look through grant by grant. Look at ‘primary’ information.
25:30 – SN: Passes out Parks and Recreation response to Gregg Swanzey’s audit. The department spent two weeks working on a response. They, too, put together their report grant by grant.
26:07 – SN: A very brief explanation of documents and distribution (many interruptions).
26:41 – JN: to Gregg – “Have you reached out to get answers?” GS: Multiple times from Parks and Rec Department Head Kevin Gilfeather (who walks in at that moment). Gregg explains that as ‘we go through grant by grant I can share with you what was not forwarded by Parks and Rec”.
27:40 – JN to GS: “Do we have copies of your requests?” GS: “I have copies of those requests here but I didn’t think those were…I am not here to defend myself.” JN: “Is there a procedure for grants?” A discussion ensues to understand what Gregg is looking for at this meeting. New procedure? S drive discussion and how it currently works in the city.
29:00 JN: “If I were a department head, and I want to put in for a grant, do you hand them something? Do they say I’ll do it for you?” GS: “A lot of grants I am directly involved with. You’ll find full documentation for those. Departments do their own grants.”
29:40 GS: It (procedure?) hasn’t fully changed, we are trying to pilot this with [parks and recs because there are many grants there.
30:05 GS: “This doesn’t come up to speed over night. It’s in progress.”
30:16 GS: “Trying to start with parks and recreation because we knew there were many problems there.”
30:27 – GS: “I’ll take responsibility for this. I should have pushed harder from 2013 to get documents that we should have had. I was presuming wrongly unless there are documents that I haven’t received and have asked for, I thought they were all in one location. that’s not the case. We are doing a review. If an auditor came in, we’d be hard pressed to produce the documents”
31:05 – JN: “Are there instructions, such as ‘sign this to show that you received this’ as procedure?”
31:19 – GS: “I am working with the Jr. League, there are so many moving parts. It says right in the contract that we are responsible for sub- contractors. We can’t give up that responsibility. We must work closely with them as grantee, we are responsible for requirements.”
32:18 MM: “We need to start going through these (items). The process isn’t understandable.”
32:36 MD: “Aren’t we using a tracking software for grants?”
32:43 GS: “We are. Amplifund (sp?). Steve and I worked, in fact Steve found it. Unfortunately it was not implemented by Parks and Recreation even though there was some training. We have a structure on the S Drive, and there is enough capacity. We are more than able. We won’t go after funding for that software. Not an expense that we want to have. We would need a way of training more people in city government in order to implement something like that. We tried it didn’t work as much as we had hoped.”
34:03 – MM: Should we start from the list? GS: Start with Forsyth (quickly responds). It’s the most complicated one (keeps apologizing for the density of the grants).
34:36 MD: “When you want to throw someone under the bus you put in all the stops you can.”
34:50 – GS: Forsyth grant. Application submitted. Second page where the budget was. 72,000 for supplies and materials EPF funds. Highlighted because contract is not in place. What should have been in place is the contract before construction started. Design needed to be approved. Procurement policy for us to pay out 72,000 to a vendor or supplies and materials. MWBE process. We would be required to follow through on policies. We should have worked closely with the Jr. League to begin with. Now we must wait 2 months for the contract to turn around for reimbursement as it just got signed. We can’t commit funds. we may need an alternative strategy.
38:00 – SN: Are we at this point if there is something that he said (Swanzey) is wrong, are we going line by line? We should have done this internally. MM: “I created my agenda based on communications I received. I did not receive one from you so I couldn’t add you to the agenda. We were given a protocol in January. MD: “You’re not going to let Steve speak?” JN: “The grants manager?” MM: (raised voice) “Leave the room if you can’t listen to the finance chair.” MD: “Can Steve speak or can’t speak?” (Meeting escalates. Maryann refuses to answer whether Steve can speak or not and attacks Matt.) MD: “This is a unilateral conversation with Gregg Swanzey.”
40:27 MM: “I have done extensive research with Gregg Swanzy and John Tuey (JT seems puzzled, but does not speak) meeting day after day what fiscal responsibility for the CI-TY.
40:43 MD: “This is nothing but a political witch hunt”
40:47 BS: “STOP IT! WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM. WE ARE HERE TO DO A JOB AND WE CAN’T DO IT BECAUSE YOU WON’T SHUT UP.”
41:00 MD: “We have never seen one department throw another department under the bus like this.”
41:02 MM explains protocol JN: “Maryann, that’s on issues. You’ve got to let everyone speak.” MM: Disrespectful to me who takes fiscal sponsor seriously. JN: “You really think you can discuss this and not have the other party respond to it?”
42:05 JN: “Gregg is discussing issues he has found fault with, wouldn’t you want to hear from the person who is supposed to…”
42:19 MM: “Kevin walked into Gregg’s office and said stop sending me emails because i have nothing more to provide you.”
42:21 JN: “Did anyone ask Steve any information?” GS: “Yes, through Kevin.:
42:29 – SN: “There is information requesting for documents. The interpretation of those documents…” GS: “The documents were not provided.”
42:38 – MM: “He must have as he had this prepared (Parks and Rec Report). I’m not taking sides here, but…”
42:49 – BS to KG: “Were you asked to did you provide documents” KG: “Yes”
43:02 BS: Gregg, did you ask for more documents?” GS: “I did not receive all documents that I asked for.”
43:14 BS: “Steve, do you have more documents that Kevin did not turn over to Economic Development?”
43:21 – SN: “The documents are emails, timelines…” MM: “Was this sent to economic development or not?” SN: “We just got the audit 2 weeks ago.” MM mentions the process began 8 weeks ago. SN: Speaks to inaccuracies. “This Could have been done in a table setting.” MM: “Did you suggest that?” SN: Kevin and I talked about how to proceed with this process…”
44:20 MM: Persists with Steve “Did you request to meet with gregg?” MD questions Maryann’s point, and Maryann screams “SHUT-UP!”
44:31 MM: “Did you reach out to Gregg Swanzey?” SN: “I did not reach out to Gregg Swanzey…” MM: “Thank you, that’s all I wanted to know.” SN: “That’s not my role”
44:42 – MM: “We should hire an independent auditor.”
44:50 MD: “So are we going to continue this political discussion?”
44:52 MM: “You’re so disrespectful.”
45:06 MD: “We know what’s going on. This is a political issue.”
45:16 – MD: “I’m saying but for Steve Noble running for mayor… etc. Any good manager of the city is going to say we have issues with grants. Lets deal with those issues in house, and lets figure out a solution.” MM speaks over him.
46:36 – ND: “Lets get things on track. I sometimes do what he does. Grandstanding. Can we bring this back to issue. this is a money thing” MM: “Do you think? it is a money issue.” ND: ”Steve knows I like him. You know I like the mayor.”
47:38 – MD: “We’re here for one reason tonight. we’re here to deal with a political matter for Shayne Gallos’ reelection campaign.”
47:50 GS: “We’re looking at primary documents. This is primary documents. These are not politically motivated documents. If you took the time ahead of time to look over this. I’d like to get through the grant before comment if I could. We can digress. MM: “The info that Steve Noble provided is also here.”
48:38 – GS: Third page. 139,000 put out for supplies and materials for Forsyth. how can we interpret this any other way, political or not?
49:54 – Maryann stops Gregg . MM: “Steve do you have anything to add to that?”
50:06 SN: “At no point was anyone allowed to purchase anything under this grant. Our department did not authorize a single penny as there is not a contact in place. When Kevin and I met with the Jr. League on March 19th, we stated not one penny could be spent until after the contract was in place. I’m not sure where that’s coming from. It’s made up. We did not authorize money under this contract. We were clear with our partners and city on how this process works. “ JN: “Was money spent?” GS: “Absolutely.”
51:20 BH (Jr. League) “We were told to submit receipts. Purchase materials, submit receipts.”
51:40 ND: “when did that meeting happen?” BH Confirms Steve’s date.
ND: “I’m confused.”
52:33 DB: “March 29th last meeting with Kinderland.” BS: “It was march 19th. Did you tell them (Jr. League) you were starting in April? BH: “TI believe it was on the parks calendar.”
53:04 SS: “who was at the meeting? BH: “Myself and Anna Brett.” SN: “myself and Kevin.”
53:20 MD: “What are we going to accomplish here other than smear campaign?”
53:53 – MM to JN: “What actions can be taken to stop Matt making snide remarks?” JN: “I’ll have to check the code.” MM: “I’ll call a break right now to see the code book.” JN: “There’s nothing that can be done tonight. This is America” JN is accused of siding with MD.
55:09 JN: “Gregg has presented no agenda of what he wants to accomplish. we can’t do anything with personal, we can’t discuss personal issues all we can do is finance. Nothing to vote on to correct a thing. Always the purpose to come in to vote.”
56:00 ND “I’d like to know what we’re talking about figures wise.”
56:44 – MM: “You want me to write up a committee report with figures? a discussion needed to be done first. Pace energy made a presentation and we have to have further discussion on it”
57:40 – JN: “They came with a request. Gregg is coming with stuff I believe would be done in house. I don’t see the need for the finance committee. There has not been one single dollar lost. “
58:10 – GS: “There are significant dollars at risk.” JN: “At risk, but not lost. fix the at risk issues.”
58:20 – GS: “I am basing this on facts and primary documents. This is not political. Not small dollar amounts. 100’s of thousands of dollars. we could have been reimbursed with good documentation.” JN: “You feel you need action of finance committee.” GS: “I’m not recommending this, but we should take action of Herzogs and Jr. League. Been money out of pocket that did supplies and materials and not paid yet. Grants not in place. Jr. league carrying that debt. Like Herzogs carrying that debt. I wish you look at all of this that’s your responsibly as alderman. I beg your pardon (says twice).”
1:00 – DB: Herzog invoice. Info provided. “I have the bills right here.
how about paying this bill sometime maybe?”
1:01 – SS: “We read about ‘at risk’ everyday. Give me an idea what percentage we are at risk: 50/50? 90/10? What action will be done to move these grants alone? More information? Independent audit?”
1:03 – GS “For the Forsyth grant, money out the door. Time sheets, MWBE all need to be submitted for reimbursement. Design not approved by OPRHP all of money at risk of being reimbursed. That’s the amount that we could be at risk. (Herzog bills). There are a lot of inconsistencies if we went through this pack. Can’t get around it. Certified time sheets.”
1:04 – SS – “What I’m really looking for, is it more likely or less likely we will get that money.” GS: “We need 3000 hours documented via time sheets to get that money recovered. To get that reimbursement, we need to get those time sheets. everyone is working hard. We need that to be reimbursed. $500,00 grant. It is at risk and it’s not resolved yet. All I’m trying to do is pin down those moving parts and we restore confidence with the agency and the city as to how we are managing grants. Breakdown it’s not the Jr. League’s fault. It’s the city’s fault. We need to take responsibly. it’s not politics.”
1:07 BS – “Kevin, meeting on March 19 w/jr. league. do you believe they were given all the requirements, MWBE, etc.”
1:07 KG – “Great organization (Jr. League). I thought at that time the information as far as record keeping was in place. The build date was made known in April 2014. A year ahead. This project would have taken place with or without the grant as it was a project that they (Jr. League) decided this was going to be their project to rebuild the playground. That was set in place a year ago. “
1:08 – BS: “Did anyone tell the jr. league if you do this project now, all of the $$ spent is at risk.” KG: “What was stated was all receipts to be kept so that we can reimburse when the grant came through. MWBE was only for company design, not equipment.”
1:10 Andy Zweben explains metes and bounds map. The city needed to provide a letter that says the city owns the property (Kinderland). Speaks to a missing attachment in emails sent by Parks and Rec who says they were sent. In April, Kevin and Steve appeared in office quite nervous quite upset saying they needed the letter right away.”
1:12 BS – “Steve…” (maryann stops Brian). AZ reiterates there was no attachment. Janet had requested it and they didn’t get it.
1:13:18 MD: “Are we going to do a thorough review of all the other grants we have? ALL the grants. Since we’re going through a ‘thorough’ process with Park and Rec, are we going to do the same for others.” GS: “I welcome that”
1:14:20 – MM: Suggest hiring an independent auditor maryann. Arguing. MD “We have a biased voice right now. We have the mayor’s advocate on any number of statements.”
1:15:07 BS: “I make a motion for the city to look into hiring an independent audit to see if they have been properly managed”
0:00 resolution is created for independent auditor for all grants including documentation and proper administration. Get to the end game for neutrality.
1:30 GS: “I have a lot of information.” BS: “Is there something you want to authorize tonight an action we can take?”
1:58 GS: Pause. “I think there is a lot of info here that is relevant to finance in the city. I’m a bit surprised we wouldn’t take a look at this. Actions, we have seen some coming out of this because we’re having this dialogue. Whether it’s an audit or paying Herzogs. I’m a little surprised after all this, having passed this along and it’s ‘primary documents’ prior to the meeting.”
3:10 – MM: “Are we looking to reimburse Herzogs?” GS: “I was not going to bring this up, not my role.”
3:45 – MM: “What actions do we need to take?”
3:53 – GS: “We should pay them XX money. But we don’t have those numbers yet. There are outstanding issues re: jr. league and Herzogs, two that I know of. You should be aware of those. It is possible not to have a decision at the end of the conversation here. You are being informed. I am helping you to understand the intricacies of grants that come up increasingly. We have millions of $$’s in grants we are managing now. There are implications right now. We have not been reimbursed for most of this because of issues.”
5:13 – BW “I think our purpose isn’t to get into the minutia in the grant process. That happens in the city, should work well, not our task. Nothing on the table to reimburse Herzogs tonight. We should understand and be careful how this impacts the city what’s the domino effect? Came together quickly, worked hard. I don’t think it’s about fault in any direction. Money is still out there. We do the best job we can to get it. Take this info from Economic Development for a closer look, If we feel an independent audit is necessary…”
6:50 – MM: “We got this info early to review.”
7:00 – BW “Yes, but a long review is not the purpose tonight. No action tonight. Stamping it. Been received.” MM: “Time is of the essence.” BW: “I don’t think it is.” Explanation of grants in NYS
8:18 – MD “Instead of going through the minutia, have a committee report and vote on it.”
8:34 – AZ “Let me frame around the timing of the issue here. Grant application 72,000 of supplies and materials, 12,000 would be grant funds. Legitimate concern about the availably of those funds and reliance of those funds and expenditures already made. Jr. league intends to enforce the rights that they have (implies litigation and that there is a timeline now). I’m not trying to force you to vote tonight, but this is not something you have time on.”
11:32 – MM reads committee report to hire independent audit. BS/DB first and second, opposed by MD and BW.
11:56 – ND to JN: “Why is this so sensitive? is it because he’s your nephew?”
12:45 – JN: “When we lost the grant for the treatment facade, we never discussed it one bit. What was the deal with that? That was over 1 million $:
13:10 – GS: “Rest his soul, Steve Finkle did not realize the match wasn’t good on that issue. Not only did I take a look at final grants, a lot were extended. We are doing them now. We are trying to change the way government works”
13:58 – ND to JN: “I don’t know why you’re saying that. Is it because he’s your nephew?”
14:01 – JN: “This is the second time you’re saying that. Why are you saying that ?” ND: “Because you’re overly sensitive. MD: “ You’re being political.” ND: “I’m not trying to grandstand.”
14:26 – JN: “Didn’t we pay $45,000 match?” GS: “Related to the facade, not a good match going back to 2011. Not to excuse it. maybe we should have brought that up. These are severe problems. I hope these notes build confidence in how we are working to manage grants in the city. We care about our partners, like the jr. league.”
15:45 – MM: “The fishing doc, five minutes to address this. labor parks/rec, DPW, etc. Not sure how this is without a doc in the water. Was this money paid?”
16:29 – GS explanation regarding fishing doc grant.
17:22 – GS: “Sorry this is so dense. I live and breath this stuff.” More on grant. work and expenses take place in the time frame. “Trouble is, none of this time was actually done. the docs not here, it’s in Vermont (dock) to my knowledge. Another 10k needs to be sent to them to my knowledge. Ralph put in 2 hours. No DPW work done, nothing on the books. An auditor would look at this and say the work didn’t happen. We need to have these records in place, we need them in hand. We just received a permit to put it in the water.”
20:10 – SN: “The fishing dock was ordered by Brian Woltman 9/25 when we started the process. City was satisfied and paid them on 12/23. If a grantor is not happy, they don’t pay you the money. Certified time sheets keeps coming up. DEC, DOS they give you a sheet for time and we use them. Others require you to simply keep records and they are kept with the comptroller office and our payroll. One of the recommendations that may come out of this process is that we have no time management system for employees who are grant funded. We met with Tuey about this issue. Employees don’t check in and out. There is not city system. One of Gregg’s concerns are no time sheets. I worked on this grant for 18 month’s. I’ve put in at least 2 hours per week (8 hours per months), of course. I can produce evidence of this time. Procedures the city could put into place is a system. Our department is also maintaining TR Gallo park, along with DPW. Grantors were happy with process to reimburse us as they have. For you to say this is fabricated, a lie, or you’re being swindled….” Interrupted by MM.
23:20 – MM: “You could have provided time sheets before hand.”
23:54 MD: “Where are you going with this Maryann? Move on.”
24:03 – SN: “I think you can see the work that we do.” MM: “I’m not a ghost in this city, I see what goes on, thank you.”
24:18 – AZ: “I called the DPW. No work order, no name of supposed worker or what equipment used nor how $2000 was calculated. Gilfeather signed off on this. I took it upon myself to call DPW. There’s a mysterious DPW worker that noone knows who it is. We certified a document for someone working 97 hours and equipment when the work hadn’t occurred.”
26:22 – SN: suggests DPW can apply time to put in and take out Dock at TR Gallo Park.
26:45 – GS: “How can i interpret it any other way then how grant requirements read? Looking at this can only be interpreted one way. No document part of the contract.”
27:40 – SN: “We did not put in any reimbursements after that date.”
28:05 – GS: “Recycling coordination grants. Steve says he spends 50% of his time. Another grant says that over 5 years he spends 50% on this grant. That means zero time for anything else. I hope the other grants are on track. “
29:04 – GS: “That’s double dipping.”
29:26 – MD: “Looks like we can look forward to the termination of Steve Noble if he looses the election.” (sarcastically). “That’s where we’re going.” GS: “This is not political.” MD: “It is political.”
30:04 – SN: “Using the term double dipping is big to use. In our packet, it lists funding by agency and matching funds by grant that we worked under at that time. It explains the numbers and time for two environmental educators.” MM cuts SN off.
31:14 – MM moves committee on. GS tries to speak to Steve’s response to double dipping.
31:36 Item #3 to execute the docs.
33:17 – GS: Double Dipping term used again regarding CAC grant.
34:10 Dan Gartenstein sits with Jr. League lawyer.
35:28 Zweben, Gartenstein and Jr. League leave together to have a discussion in council chambers.