Thursday, February 11, 2010

Westchester Guardian Article/In Our Opinion/Social Services Department.

Westchester ‘Slush Fund’
Dept. Of Social Services

In Our Opinion...

Will They Ever Learn, Will They Ever Learn?

It’s not too often we find ourselves comfortably supporting a position taken by Mount Vernon Mayor Clinton I. Young. This newspaper has made no secret of our disappointment with the Young Administration on any number of occasions. However, with respect to the City Council’s proposed elimination of the Office of Inspector General, Mr. Young is clearly on target when he suggests his city “needs to have as many internal controls in place as possible to avoid corruption.”

After all, although former United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Michael J. Garcia, despite announcing a major effort to flush out public corruption, and managing to only produce a handful of offenders, nevertheless found all of those offenders in Mount Vernon; former Buildings Department Commissioner “Gerri” Post and her boyfriend Wayne Charles, Department of Public Works Supervisor James Castaldo, and hauler Albert Tranquillo. Those two schemes, together with $1.7 million of HUD money that mysteriously disappeared, totalled more than $5 million that surely could’ve been put to much better use by Mount Vernon taxpayers.

The present Inspector General, Harry Stokes, earns $110,000, and his secretary receives $55,000. Apparently the City Council, under the leadership of Council President J. Yuhanna Edwards, has concluded that those salaries could be saved. Edwards was quoted as saying, “We don’t feel the Inspector General is needed at this time; we feel we have things in place.” In place? Yes. Under control? No.

Edwards was further quoted stating, “Each department should take it upon themselves to audit themselves.” We believe Edwards, and apparently a majority of the City Council, are naive, indeed, if they believe a self-policing scheme will suffice in the City of Mount Vernon given its history.

We have reason to believe there is massive corruption in Mount Vernon at this very moment, and that HUD funds are but one source of federal monies getting into larcenous hands. We are aware of hundreds of thousands of dollars hemorrhaging from 100 East First Street, the Department of Social Services, into the pockets of relatives, friends, and political connections of Deputy Commissioner Diane Atkins, a 41-year employee who is accountable directly to Kevin Mahon.

Atkins’ unlawful antics have been causing great anguish and anxiety in otherwise competent, diligent, and honest examiners and supervisors throughout Westchester’s Department of Social Services as they are repeatedly instructed by Atkins to make payments to ineligible individuals; federal monies being used as her personal slush fund. It is our understanding that Janet DiFiore continues to mentor and protect Atkins, and that she has also been closely connected with Reggie LaFayette and Serapher Conn-Halevi, both former Mount Vernon Democratic Chairpersons.

Halevi operates a childcare enterprise reportedly drawing several hundred thousand dollars annually from the Department of Social Services. Her son, her daughter, and other relatives have been cited in the media in the recent past for their own questionable dealings with the Department of Social Services, as well. All that federal investigators will need to do is to speak with supervisors and examiners.

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