ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — The state’s Environmental Facilities Corporation is paying $500,000 in settlement money after falsely claiming employees worked for the federal clean water grant when in fact they were employed in the executive chamber.
“The longer something like this goes on, the harder it becomes to believe that it was one inadvertent mistake,” said Tyler Maulsby, a legal ethics attorney. The falsified claims took place from 2009 to 2019, when former Governors Paterson and Cuomo were in office. As part of the agreement, the EFC admitted that the former officials in charge of their department caused the state to include those employees’ salaries and benefits as part of the federal funding requests.
Some may ask, how could this have gone on for so long? Maulsby says, it’s hard to tell how it began, but why it continued is up for question. “As there’s turnover, if it’s just sort of a way of doing business, then that’s one argument for them, it wasn’t intentional it was just sort of done and the longer it goes on the next person in line says ‘well that’s how we did it last time and we’ll keep doing it,’” he said.
Or the U.S. Attorney’s Office could have evidence of intentional wrongdoing. According to their press release on eight occasions the EFC submitted certifications to EPA and falsely claimed that those costs bore a “beneficial or causal relationship” to the CWSRF grant.
“When someone is submitting a certification to a government agency, the person whoever it is who is signing the certification and submitting it is verifying that they have conducted a good faith inquiry and that what they’re putting on that form is true and accurate,” said Maulsby.
In a statement Nic Evans, the special agent in charge said, “This settlement is an example of EPA OIG’s commitment to ensuring that all EPA grant administrators, including state actors, are held accountable when dealing with taxpayer funds.”