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State audit finds UB worst of five SUNY campuses securing hazardous chemicals

File Photo
University at Buffalo

The University at Buffalo and auditors for New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli are in a fight over claimed bad security for hazardous materials, much worse than at Stony Brook and five other SUNY campuses.

The audit suggests a pervasive problem at UB, from no accurate list of employees with access to dangerous chemicals to lack of information about what hazardous chemicals were around. Checking Stony Brook, Plattsburgh, New Paltz, Polytechnic Institute, Oneonta and Cobleskill, the auditors say nothing was found as bad as UB's situation.

"Our auditors found that two of the state university's flagship campuses, Buffalo and Stony Brook, did not properly monitor or restrict access to hazardous materials, possibly jeopardizing the health and safety of students and the campus community," said DiNapoli spokesperson Mark Johnson.

Johnson said Buffalo's controls over hazardous materials were lacking.

"There was no certainty that unauthorized individuals could not access materials and there were limited controls over who could purchase them. Additionally, auditors found that the university had incomplete inventory controls and poor recordkeeping. At the same time, the university did not necessarily cooperate the entire time with auditors and we could say they dragged their feet," he said.

The university, however, says the audit contains "numerous errors, inconsistencies and misstatements." SUNY central says there is heavy regulation from multiple federal agencies, as well as state and local agencies, and no problems have turned up. In fact, a SUNY statement says its rules meet or exceed federal, state and local standards.

The auditors responded that SUNY was free to look at the photographs of what they found, pictures not mentioned in the original report.

"In this case, photographs are pertinent to what we are finding," Johnson said. "If we're looking at finances, maybe not so much. But in a case where we're looking at how easy it is to access hazardous materials that could pose health problems to the general population of the campus, then by all means it's something we would include in an audit."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.