November 2, 2017




Orange County grand jury blasts City of Newburgh’s lack of financial oversight

NEWBURGH – Following the theft of just under $10,000 in public boat launch funds from the City of Newburgh by former City Comptroller John Aber, Orange County District Attorney David Hoovler brought the city’s financial oversight to the grand jury for examination and what it found was "a glaring lack of oversight" built into the structure of Newburgh government, specifically the comptroller’s office.

Hoovler said the grand jury found a number of abnormalities in governing, which are detailed in the report.

“In particular the police department has to come to council meetings and has to have a pro-active plan for crisis intervention to handle public comment,” Hoovler noted. “I think the grand jury also saw numerous instances where the politics of the city get in the way of the administrators running the city, which causes a paralysis which affects the taxpayers negatively.”

The silver lining in the report said the city should continue to build on the improvements made by current Comptroller Kathryn “Katie” Mack.

City Manager Michael Ciaravino said the administration in the city today is quite difference from that of past years, especially during the time referenced in the grand jury report.

“To say that she is a watchdog over the city’s finances is an understatement and all of the administration have worked, not only with our comptroller, to develop best practices and standards, but in so many ways, I believe we are ahead of the curve,” Ciaravino said.

The report said a lack of checks and balances resulted in the thefts by Aber, who pled guilty to a charge of grand larceny.

Among the revelations in the report are that the city spent $30,000 for non-cash, electronic parking meters in 2013, but they sit idle in a DPW office; that a police officer had to be assigned to city council meetings to maintain order; and that Newburgh has a high turnover of top administrators including city manager, comptroller (eight comptrollers since 2007), and police chief. “The lack of continuity in city managers and city comptrollers may have contributed to the city’s failure to adopt better and more comprehensive money handling practices,” the grand jury report stated.

Former Police Chief Daniel Cameron, who testified at the grand jury, said politics often trumps government operations. He testified that when city street surveillance cameras would break he never received sufficient funds to keep them in proper working order. The grand jury report stated: “There was at least one homicide that might have been solved more quickly had a broken camera in the area been working at the time. The city council addressed this issue, not by passing funding to repair broken cameras, but by stating that the city manager and the police chief should have ensured that the cameras were operating properly.”

The report noted that recommendations in a 2012 state comptroller’s office audit have not yet been implemented. The Implementation of those as well as 25 others is contained in the new report.

“It is distressing that city officials never implemented the practical recommendations that were contained in the report issued by the State Comptroller’s Office in 2012,” said DA Hoovler. “The residents of Newburgh deserve to have their public officials safeguard municipal funds so that they can be used to benefit city residents and not be stolen or wasted. As noted in the grand jury’s report, the City of Newburgh has suffered by the frequent turn-over of municipal officials including police chief, the city manager and city comptroller. I urge city officials to carefully consider all of the grand jury’s recommendations, and implement those which will safeguard city funds as soon as possible.”


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