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Saratoga Springs Housing Authority reviewing director’s controversial deal

Thursday, February 21, 2013
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— The Saratoga Springs Housing Authority’s Board of Commissioners is reviewing a four-year employment contract with Executive Director Edward Spychalski that provides him with an automatic, one-year extension each year.

The contract review is part of a corrective action plan the board is developing in answer to a state audit that criticizes the salary Spychalski is paid, his “rolling” contract, and some other internal financial controls.

The Board of Commissioners met Thursday at the Stonequist Apartments to review a two-page draft of the corrective action plan written by board Chairman Eric Weller.

The board agreed to seek a 30-day extension with the state Comptrollers Office on filing a final plan, which was due this month, so board members could each comment on the draft and suggest changes.

The audit criticizes Spychalski’s annual pay of $144,900, saying it exceeds new federal Department of Housing and Urban Development guidelines and exceeds the pay of executive directors of larger housing authorities in the region, including those in Schenectady, Albany and Troy.

The Saratoga Springs Housing Authority manages 339 units of public housing, including the 176-unit Stonequist Apartments on South Federal Street and public housing units in Jefferson Terrace and Vanderbilt Terrace, on the east side of Saratoga Springs.

Weller said he would release the corrective action plan to the public when it becomes final in late March. He would not release the draft to reporters but answered questions about the plan.

Weller said after an executive session that the board is looking at Spychalski’s so-called “rolling” four-year contract that has an automatic, one-year extension built in unless the board gives Spychalski notice that the contract is terminated.

Spychalski agreed last year to reduce the earlier five-year rolling contract period to four years.

Even if the board asks that the contract be terminated, the board can only terminate the one-year extension on the contract and Spychalski would still have three years remaining on the contract, according to the state audit.

Weller said the board’s attorney was asked to look at the contract and make recommendations.

The state Comptroller’s Office recommended the board end the rolling contract with Spychalski, but Weller said such a step would have to be negotiated with Spychalski.

Weller has defended Spychalski’s pay and his contract in the past, saying the authority is well run and regularly receives very high efficiency ratings from HUD.

The state comptroller’s audit also recommends that the authority seek reimbursement from authority officials and employees of $11,688 in “excessive” travel expenses generated over the past two years.

The audit notes that the authority spent $46,000 in travel expenses during the period between 2010 and early 2012. The expenses were for travel to HUD seminars and educational forums in such places as Washington, D.C., Phoenix, New Orleans and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Weller said the HUD travel approval policy is different from policies followed by the state. He said authority employees and officials followed HUD guidelines, and he does not feel the funds need to be reimbursed, as recommended in the state audit.

“There is no need to ask for it back,” Weller said.

However, Weller said the authority has instituted a pre-approval process for expenses associated with travel, as recommended in the audit.

Weller said the corrective action plan will address all seven recommendations listed in the state audit, which was released in November after a lengthy audit period.

 
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February 22, 2013
4:25 p.m.
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