“No Audit. No Fraud. No Disclosure”:  Buffalo Urban League Fights Back

  Urban League CEO Brenda McDuffie (center) isjoined byboard member James Pitts (left) and the league’s Legal Counsel Kenneth Africano (to her right). 

  Urban League CEO Brenda McDuffie (center) isjoined byboard member James Pitts (left) and the league’s Legal Counsel Kenneth Africano (to her right). 

Brenda McDuffie, President and CEO of The Buffalo Urban League, made the following statement during a press conference Monday afternoon in front of the Urban League Headquarters  on Genesee Street in downtown Buffalo. Also speaking was Urban League Board member and former  Council Member  James W. Pitts who said the report released by the Comptroller’s office “gives a false impression” of the organization.” Directing his comments at Erie County Comptroller  Stefan Mychajliw he said:“You’re hurting the people who have the greatest need and who depend upon the league for services.” Attorney Kenneth W. Africano noted during the news conference that The Urban League is not looking for monetary damages, but rather “wants to set the record straight. It wants to correct the record.”  The Comptroller’s report stated Mrs. McDuffie is   “fatally flawed and severely damaging. It must be withdrawn.” Following is the full text of her statement. 

“Yesterday the Buffalo Urban League served a notice of claim in Erie County Court in preparation for a possible Article 78 proceeding against the Erie County Comptroller. We are taking this step because the Comptroller has failed to withdraw his improperly conducted and fatally flawed report of December 9, 2015, or to correct the record regarding his subsequent false statements to the press about the findings in the report. The false claims and misrepresentations that continue to flow from the Comptroller’s report have done our organization immeasurable harm.

“As asserted in our notice of claim, the Comptroller’s report is flawed because it failed to follow professional standards of accounting that government agencies are required to observe. These widely accepted standards and principles call for forensic accounting techniques, such as sampling, that the Comptroller’s office failed to use. Instead, the Comptroller’s office created an ad-hoc procedure for its review, including an improvised and unrecognized extrapolation formula for determining overbilling. 

“Government agencies, whether investigating claims or conducting reviews, are not permitted to ignore established procedures or use procedures that are simply made up. They are required to follow a standard approach and apply it equally to everyone. In an Article 78 proceeding, we would ask the court to recognize that the Comptroller’s review failed to meet this crucial test, determine that its review process was arbitrary and capricious, and set aside the report.

“In subsequent statements to the press, the Comptroller and others have characterized the report as an audit and claimed that it suggested evidence of fraud. In fact, the review found a one-time billing error that was self-reported by the Urban League, not any evidence of fraud, a word never mentioned in the report.  The Comptroller’s exaggerated claims bear no relationship to the facts. They should be withdrawn.   

“Further, the Comptroller failed to disclose crucial information about the whistleblowers on whose complaints the review was founded, specifically that the retaliation claims of the two chief whistleblowers were entirely dismissed by The U.S. Department of Labor and The New York State Division of Human Rights, respectively.  Although the Comptroller had the letters from the Department of Labor and the Division of Human Rights and was fully aware that the whistleblowers claims had been dismissed, he chose not to disclose this information. “The bottom line is that a proper audit was not conducted, no fraud was found, and critical information was withheld from the public.” 

We have urged the Comptroller to withdraw his report and correct the record. Although significant damage has already been done, it is not too late for him to do so and we will continue to seek that redress through non-legal means. However, should we need to look to the courts for relief, our notice of filing preserves the right to bring legal claims for a period of up to eight months.”