Audit Shows Nobody KeepingTabs on Probation Department
By Joyce Kryszak
Buffalo, NY – An audit of the Erie County probation department found mismanagement costing the county - and victims - hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Erie County Comptroller Mark Poloncarz said a review of probation accounts from 2006 to 2008 shows poor oversight going back three administrations. According to Poloncarz, the result is that at least $337,000 in restitution was collected but never paid out to victims.
Worse still, there is no record of who is owed that money. Poloncarz said it is sad that mismanagement left some people victimized a second time by the county.
Erie County taxpayers also should be sad.
The comptroller said failure to collect mandated higher probation fees also has cost the county possibly as much as $1.3 million. The higher fees were added in 2005 after the budget crisis. But Poloncarz said probation officers in some cases told probationers not to pay them. That is because a case can not be held open just because the county is still owed money. Poloncarz said it is a costly loop hole some officers apparently told their clients to take advantage of.
Last year, the comptroller's office took over fee collection recovery and now is conducting oversight of the victims' restitution account. Poloncarz said new management of the probation department and new computer equipment should further help correct problems.
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