Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz issued this statement in response to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Revised Audit of Erie County’s use of federal assistance dollars in response to the October 2006 Surprise Storm:
“As has been reported, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”) has issued its response to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General’s (“OIG”) Revised Audit of Erie County’s use of Federal assistance dollars in response to the October 2006 Surprise Storm.
As you may recall, the OIG recommended FEMA recover nearly $48.5 million of Federal disaster assistance provided to Erie County, which was almost the full amount of assistance ($53 million) provided to our county in response to the storm.
At the time OIG issued its first Audit, and then when it issued its revised audit, I noted OIG was relying on the wrong law, and, but for a few small areas of agreement, Erie County had followed the letter of the law and should not be required to repay $48.5 million dollars.
Today, FEMA issued its response to the Audit and has concluded that a total reduction of $705,640.93 is appropriate.
My administrative team has reviewed FEMA’s response. Some of the claims contained in the response we never disputed. Others, such as the Giambra Administration and Legislature’s payment of outside consultants and changing of work rules after the storm to allow for the payment of overtime to management personnel, we believe are meritorious.
Therefore, in order to put this matter behind us, we concur with FEMA’s findings and will return $705,640.93 of federal funding now sought in response to the October 2006 Storm recovery.
This is a positive development for the people of Erie County and would not have been possible without the strong advocacy of our Senator Charles E. Schumer. Senator Schumer is a forceful champion for our community and I greatly appreciate his efforts to assist us in rebutting the illogical recommendations proffered by the Homeland Security Department’s Inspector General’s Office.
I also thank Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Congressman Brian Higgins, who provided assistance to my administration in rebutting OIG’s claims.
I also want to thank my staff, including Deputy County Executive Rich Tobe, Budget Director Robert Keating, Deputy Budget Director Tim Callan, County Attorney Michael Siragusa, Director of Purchasing Vallie Ferracchio, Emergency Services Commissioner Dan Neaverth, Jr., and Director of Policy and Communications Mark Cornell, all of whom worked countless hours to address these invalid claims.
While FEMA is seeking restitution of about $705,000, that pales in comparison to OIG’s original recommendation of recovering more than $48 million – which would have devastated our county’s finances. The fact is, Erie County followed the rules and guidance of FEMA and NYSEMO officials on the ground in the disaster recovery and OIG’s findings are deeply flawed. I feel like Erie County has been vindicated by FEMA’s response and now we can all put that disaster finally behind us.”