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THA Report August 2012 Final 8-2-12

THA Report August 2012 Final 8-2-12

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Published by: JimmyVielkind on Aug 07, 2012
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 INVESTIGATION OF DOUBLE-DIPPING AT TROY HOUSING AUTHORITY 
 August 2012
A joint investigation by the NYS Office of the
State Comptroller’s
Investigations Unit and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban
Development’s Office of Inspector General.
 
 
 
 Executive Summary
 Introduction
A joint investigation by the Office of the State Comptroller‟s Investigations Unit and the
United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General
(“HUD OIG”) found that Roger Rosenthal (“Rosenthal”), former 
Comptroller of the Troy
Housing Authority (“THA”), with the assistance of then THA Executive Secretary WilliamMeissner (“Meissner”) collected in excess of $207,000 in payments and reimbursements from
the THA while simultaneously collecting a public pension absent lawful approval. The
investigation further found that purported “consulting agreements” belatedly produced
, in
response to the Comptroller‟s Office
inquiry, by Rosenthal in order to justify his post-retirementearnings are of dubious authenticity. Among other indications undermining the legitimacy of these documents, the investigation uncovered an email from Rosenthal to Meissner dated amonth before these documents were produced in which Rosenthal clearly informed Meissner thathe had only had suppos
ed “verbal” contracts with the A
uthority as opposed to a formal writtenagreement. Additionally, the investigation confirmed that the letterhead of one of the documentssubmitted was not developed or utilized by the THA until after the purported date of thesignature on the document itself.This investigation was conducted with the full support and assistance of the current THAAdministration. These findings will be referred to the Office of the New York State AttorneyGeneral for appropriate action.
The Investigation
The THA is a public benefit corporation created pursuant to the New York State PublicHousing Law to provide affordable housing to individuals and families of low and fixed incomes
in Troy, New York. As it receives substantial federal funding, the THA‟s operations ar 
egoverned by both federal and New York State law and regulations. The THA is governed by aseven-member board and its daily operations are supervised by an Executive Secretary. TheTHA also employs a full-time Comptroller, a competitive Civil Service position.On May 8, 2000, Rosenthal was hired as THA Comptroller. Prior to his employmentwith the THA, Rosenthal had served in public positions since the 1970s and is a Tier 1 member
of the New York State and Local Retirement System (“Retirement System”
). On June 10, 2005,Rosenthal informed the Retirement System of his intention to retire effective July 2005. Like allother retirees, Rosenthal was conspicuously informed by the Retirement System on hisretirement application that subsequent to his retirement,
his public employment “must cease” and
that there were legal limits on any post-retirement public earnings he could garner. Specifically,as a Tier 1 retiree, Rosenthal required Civil Service Commission approval to earn in excess of $30,000 in public salary post-retirement and further required Retirement System approval of anypurported consulting agreements between him and a public employer.
Subsequent to Rosenthal‟s departure, the THA appointed Starr Pombrio to the
full-timecompetitive Civil Service position of THA Comptroller. Pombrio advised that shortly after herhire, William Meissner, then serving as an accountant at the THA, informed her that prior to her
 
 
August 2012 Page 2
hiring, Meissner had proposed the idea of paying Rosenthal, whom he had developed afriendship with, to serve as THA Comptroller on a per diem basis, but that the THA Board hadrejected his proposed
arrangement because it viewed it as “Rosenthal being greedy” in wanting
 to collect earnings on top of his pension. Pombrio advised that although he was ostensibly hersubordinate, Meissner resisted her efforts to improve the control environment at the Authority or
accede to her supervision. Pombrio‟s description was corroborated by Mario Musolino, who
then served as THA Executive Secretary, w
ho stated that Meissner “made life miserable” for Pombrio. Substantially due to Meissner‟s behavior, Pombrio voluntarily resigned her position in
July 2006.At the time Pombrio vacated her THA Comptroller position, the THA was already late inits submission of a
major financial report to HUD critical in its quest to remove the “troubledhousing authority” des
ignation HUD had placed on the Authority. With Pombrio gone, Meissnerproposed hiring Rosenthal as a consultant to compile this report. As a new open competitive
examination had not yet been scheduled, Musolino agreed to Meissner‟s proposition to hire
Rosenthal for a short duration for the limited purpose of composing this time-sensitive report.Rosenthal was subsequently retained to perform the same limited service for the 2006 HUDreporting.
Upon Musolino‟s resignation from the
Authority, in March 2007, Meissner wasappointed THA Executive Secretary and on December 7, 2007, entered into a two-year contractwith the THA. With Meissner now serving as Executive Secretary, Rosenthal continued to billthe THA for services, not merely for the two months anticipated in order to complete the HUDreport, but for approximately three years, totaling in excess of $207,000 in payments andreimbursements.
Indeed, upon Meissner‟s assumption of the Executive Secretary position,
Rosenthal expanded his role far beyond his limited agreement with Musolino to essentially
encompass the duties of the THA‟s Comptroller, a full
-time competitive Civil Service position,even declaring himself on numerous official THA documents and correspondence as theA
uthority‟s “Acting Comptroller 
.
In addition to remuneration for personal services, payments
to Rosenthal during this period by the THA also included $16,000 in advances andreimbursements, authorized by Meissner, for purported expenses including air fare, hotel staysfor conferences in Florida (where both Rosenthal and Meissner maintain second homes) andBoston, gift cards, meals and mileage reimbursement. Moreover, despite the THA providing himoffice space and equipment, Meissner allowed Rosenthal to bill the THA for ostensiblyperforming consulting services from his home in Florida, where he routinely spent severalmonths throughout the year.During the entire period he earned over $200,000 from the THA, Rosenthal also receiveda public pension. As a member of the Retirement System, Rosenthal was not legally permittedto earn salary over the $30,000 statutory limit as a public employee without approval of the CivilService Commission. Furthermore, although as a Tier 1 member of the System he could enterinto a legitimate consultant contract with a public employer, any such contracts are required to bein writing and pre-approved by the Retirement System to ensure that the employment was truly a
consultant arrangement and not designed to circumvent the proscriptions on “double
-
dipping”
contained in New York State law.

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