Urban League Responds to Comptroller’s Report: Rejects “False and Harmful Assertions”

 

On Wednesday, December 9, the Erie County Comptroller submitted the final report on the Buffalo Urban League’s 2014 Preventive Services contract with Erie County Department of Social Services.  In light of the Comptroller statements in the media, we wanted to share with you some important facts.

The Buffalo Urban League Preventive Services program protects children from neglect and abuse by working with their parents in the home to ensure the safety and well-being of their children. Through our work last year, we were able to serve 180 families whose children were safe so they, consistent with the Urban League mission, can be empowered to reach their fullest potential.  The manner in which the Report was made harms our mission.

We are disappointed with the content and the tone of the Report, and with the way it has been presented to the public. It features significant inaccuracies, including wildly exaggerated dollar amounts, unsubstantiated claims of retaliation and lack of employee training. And by failing to perform an unbiased risk assessment, identify materiality thresholds, use a valid sampling and extrapolation methodology, determine contractual requirements, consider all audit evidence and address management’s comments and documentation, it fails to adhere to the standards of Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards. Central to the Report’s claims is the notion that we knowingly overbilled for preventive services and retaliated against employees.  These are false and harmful assertions that we categorically reject. 

The Comptroller characterizes us uncooperative. In fact it’s been the opposite. The Comptroller’s first request for documentation did not come until nearly two months after the initial meeting held on December 16, 2014.  And, despite requests for thousands of pages of documents requiring significant employee work time, every request was fulfilled as expeditiously as possible. Following receipt of a draft report on November 4, 2015, our team provided the Comptroller’s Office with documented facts that refuted the draft report findings. We presented these facts during an Exit Conference and followed up with a formal written response.  However, instead of including our full response in the final report, the Comptroller paraphrased our responses to each finding and comment, misrepresenting our positions.

It is important to note that the Report does affirm that the Buffalo Urban League continues to have the complete confidence of the Erie County Department of Social Services, our contracting agency.  The Social Services Commissioner’s full response can be found in the report, and is worth reading. We are pleased to have earned his support on the merits of our work.

Our success depends on community support and a dedicated staff. The Report questions our staff’s abilities and credentials by making unsubstantiated claims regarding training – claims the Comptroller’s Office is itself not trained or qualified to make. As to claims of whistle-blower retaliation made by the Report, these too are false. Independent state and federal agencies investigated claims they filed against the Urban League and found them to be without merit; the Comptroller chose to ignore this. 

More than 99% of families served by the Urban League’s Preventive Services Program have been able to stay together safely without further incident.  At a time of growing economic and social pressure on the neediest members of our community, the work of the Urban League is indispensable. This is not the time to be questioning its legitimacy. 

 

We take our role in protecting the well-being of our most vulnerable children very seriously. 

Thank you to the countless supporters who have reached out to show their support.  Your Buffalo Urban League stands firm, and will continue to empower individuals, support families and strengthen our community.

Brenda W. McDuffie

President & CEO

Buffalo Urban League

 

Michael Reville

Chairman, Board of Directors

Buffalo Urban League