A Queens-based provider of bilingual pre-school special education services was hit by state Controller Thomas DiNapoli in a new audit for improperly spending taxpayer money on fancy cars, a Manhattan apartment, and even a recent hire's funeral expenses.
The audit, set to be released Monday, found that Bilinguals Inc. received reimbursements to help cover the cost of rent on a Manhattan apartment for Executive Director Trudy Font-Padron and her husband, Robert Padron, an assistant executive director, "so they wouldn't be too far from the office," even though the headquarters are in Forest Hills.
Taxpayers also paid parts of the leases, insurance and other costs related to three upscale vehicles - 2009 and 2011 Lexus SUVs and a 2010 Honda CRV - for Font-Padron and her husband as well as cable TV at their Manhattan apartment, auditors found.
Bilinguals Inc., which has provided services since 1995 to special needs kids ages three through five in New York City and the surrounding suburbs, also wrongly billed governments for excessive compensation for Font-Padron and her husband, employee bonuses, meals and parties, gift certificates, and college tuition for employees, the audit found.
As a result of a shortage of bilingual special ed teachers and therapists, Bilinguals spent $279,552 on international recruiting costs that included trips to South America but resulted in only eight hirings from overseas over a three-year period.
The organization also billed to cover the costs of employees who either weren't working at the program during the three-year audit period ending June 30, 2011, or worked at affiliated out-of-state programs.
All told, auditors found more than $875,000 in improper reimbursements out of the $13.3 million Bilinguals Inc. billed government during the three-year period.
"Bilinguals, like other special education providers audited by my office, took advantage of lax oversight to cash in," DiNapoli said.
That includes more than $541,000 in questionable personal services, $128,629 in non-personal serves, and $205,695 in recruitment costs.
The controller knocked the state Education Department for lax oversight.
"The State Education Department needs to recoup the money paid for these unwarranted charges and put in place more stringent standards to protect taxpayer dollars and ensure the parents and children who rely on special education programs get the funding they deserve," DiNapoli said.
Failed roll-out of the Common Core, test scores that were set to purposely plummet, lax oversight of special education service...
Remind me again why NYSED Commissioner John King still has his job?