Press-Republican

Education

April 27, 2013

Comptroller finds $7.7 million state funds unaccounted for by special-ed schools

LAKE PLACID — Two schools for disabled youth, including the Mountain Lake Academy here, have been cited for overcharging taxpayers $7.7 million.

State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli released an audit that uncovered, among inappropriate payments, some $4.4 million in undocumented management fees.

Mountain Lake Academy is a boarding-school environment for boys and young men ages 12 to 21 with various behavioral challenges, among them conduct disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Lake Grove School, in Suffolk County, is a sister school.

And both were managed by Windwood Meadow Inc., based in Suffolk County, according to the comptroller’s documents.

SEVERED TIES

Carol Prevost, executive director at Mountain Lake, said Friday that the facility in Lake Placid is no longer affiliated with Windwood Meadow.

“None of the expenditures in the report were authorized or approved by any Mountain Lake personnel,” she said in a statement.

“When Mountain Lake became aware of some of the fiscal concerns raised in the report, we immediately began attempts to separate from the parent/management organization.”

That was accomplished earlier this year.

CEO SALARY

The Comptroller’s Office reviewed four years of school business records, from 2005 to 2009, for the audit released Friday.

It found “Windwood allocated its management fees among several of its affiliates, including Lake Grove and Mountain Lake, but could not explain those allocations. 

“Because of that, (the comptroller) could not verify if the $5.4 million in management fees allocated to Lake Grove and Mountain Lake were proper.”

Chief among undocumented costs were salary payments to Windwood’s former chief executive officer John Claude Bahrenburg.

“Bahrenburg was paid $450,521 in fiscal year 2006-07; $480,619 in (fiscal year) 2007-08 and $480,619 in (fiscal year) 2008-09,” the report says.

“Program reimbursement guidelines for both the State Education Department and Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) require salary costs to be supported by time and attendance records for the funded program. 

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