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Auditor General applauds Breneman's work Jay Breneman 2018-01-08T09:00:00-05:00 http://www.jaybreneman.org/news-and-releases/auditor-general-applauds-brenemans-work

When I ran for public office in 2013, I wanted to change the status quo.

As I recently wrote in the Erie Times News, I learned that great things were happening in spite of local government, not because of it. I also learned that there were inefficiencies in government that led to the support for and funding of projects with spurious merit, but plenty of political connections.

I wanted to know where and how Erie County’s taxpayers’ money was being spent, and I wanted to improve policies, practices, and transparancy for years to come.

In most cases, County funds are used appropriately to the benefit of those in need. However, as part of general review of non-profit agencies which receive County funds, I discovered that GECAC – which provides a number of services for the poor and aged across Erie County – has spent tens of thousands of dollars each year on dinner parties, benefits for board members, and a rental scheme that led GECAC to spend millions of dollars more on rent and building maintenance than if they had simply purchased its downtown office space. In the process, one could argue that GECAC subsidized an affiliated foundation that unduly benefitted a handful of insiders at taxpayer expense.

It was clear that the County's haphazard grantmaking processes was to fault for enabling this.

I expressed these concerns at Erie County Council committee meetings and with the County's finance team, and everyone agreed: no one knew why they received this funding, what they did with it, nor had any appropriate oversight in their need for it or it's ultimate use. Furthermore, everyone agreed that tens-of-thousands of dollars were being used in a manner that was problematic and hard to defend.

So, in the last days of my term I shared the evidence I found with County Controller Mary Schaaf, who asked Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale to review GECAC’s financial information because it receives state and federal dollars, in addition to the County funding.

“It is beyond disturbing to learn that for decades Erie County has provided millions of dollars in grant funding to local organizations without asking how the money was spent,” DePasquale concluded. “I applaud former County Council chairman Jay Breneman for uncovering what could be tens of thousands of dollars squandered on fancy banquets and meals rather than providing services to children and seniors.”

I also asked the County Board of Tax Assessment to review the tax exempt status of GECAC's affiliated foundation, and they have determined that the organization does not meet the state-defined criteria for a tax-exempt nonprofit.

Since then, the County is moving forward in a manner to standardize the grantmaking and reporting process, something that will add greater fairness and transparancy for all.

A link to the Pennsylvania Auditor General's full news release is available by clicking here.

Auditor General applauds Breneman's work

Posted on January 8th, 2018 at 9:00 AM
Auditor General applauds Breneman's work

When I ran for public office in 2013, I wanted to change the status quo.

As I recently wrote in the Erie Times News, I learned that great things were happening in spite of local government, not because of it. I also learned that there were inefficiencies in government that led to the support for and funding of projects with spurious merit, but plenty of political connections.

I wanted to know where and how Erie County’s taxpayers’ money was being spent, and I wanted to improve policies, practices, and transparancy for years to come.

In most cases, County funds are used appropriately to the benefit of those in need. However, as part of general review of non-profit agencies which receive County funds, I discovered that GECAC – which provides a number of services for the poor and aged across Erie County – has spent tens of thousands of dollars each year on dinner parties, benefits for board members, and a rental scheme that led GECAC to spend millions of dollars more on rent and building maintenance than if they had simply purchased its downtown office space. In the process, one could argue that GECAC subsidized an affiliated foundation that unduly benefitted a handful of insiders at taxpayer expense.

It was clear that the County's haphazard grantmaking processes was to fault for enabling this.

I expressed these concerns at Erie County Council committee meetings and with the County's finance team, and everyone agreed: no one knew why they received this funding, what they did with it, nor had any appropriate oversight in their need for it or it's ultimate use. Furthermore, everyone agreed that tens-of-thousands of dollars were being used in a manner that was problematic and hard to defend.

So, in the last days of my term I shared the evidence I found with County Controller Mary Schaaf, who asked Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale to review GECAC’s financial information because it receives state and federal dollars, in addition to the County funding.

“It is beyond disturbing to learn that for decades Erie County has provided millions of dollars in grant funding to local organizations without asking how the money was spent,” DePasquale concluded. “I applaud former County Council chairman Jay Breneman for uncovering what could be tens of thousands of dollars squandered on fancy banquets and meals rather than providing services to children and seniors.”

I also asked the County Board of Tax Assessment to review the tax exempt status of GECAC's affiliated foundation, and they have determined that the organization does not meet the state-defined criteria for a tax-exempt nonprofit.

Since then, the County is moving forward in a manner to standardize the grantmaking and reporting process, something that will add greater fairness and transparancy for all.

A link to the Pennsylvania Auditor General's full news release is available by clicking here.

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