Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz (D).
BUFFALO, NY - Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz has released his formal response to federal auditors who suggest FEMA should recoup $48 million granted to the County in the aftermath of the October Surprise Storm of 2006.
Poloncarz's formal response was much in line with the one he delivered somewhat passionately during a hastily called news conference when the audit first surfaced last month, and when Poloncarz suggested that whoever prepared it should be fired.
The lion's share of the funds called into question by the Office of Inspector General, some $39 million, was used for the removal and disposal of downed trees and branches.
Auditors claimed the County failed to comply with federal grant regulations, when it did not competitively bid out the work, and gave preference to local contractors.
Poloncarz (who was not County executive at the time) insists county officials were not legally required to do so, given the emergency at hand, and under federal law.
Auditors also said the County could not produce records to substantiate $9 million dollars in other spending related to the storm. Poloncarz says the county has since produced those records, but that the federal auditors now are not interested in seeing them.
"I'm calling on the Inspector General to retract and withdraw this audit, because of the flawed methodology, and the flawed logic and law they relied upon, as well as the inability for them to supposedly identify what is the missing documentation," Poloncarz told WGRZ-TV. "I am also calling on FEMA to reject the audit, even if the IG doesn't withdraw it, based on the inconsistencies and inaccurate law that's contained in the original audit."
The Office of the Inspector General tells Two On Your Side FEMA cannot be compelled by its office to try and recover the funds, even if auditors suggest there are grounds upon which to make a claim. Thus far, FEMA has made no apparent attempt to do so.
Poloncarz says he expects to meet with FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate within the next few weeks along with U.S. Senator Charles Schumer to plead the county's case that it shouldn't be made to pay back any of the money.