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New York IG says GBHC plant superintendent “wasted” $121,000 on materials

By Eric Reinhardt (ereinhardt@cnybj.com)

Date:

The plant superintendent of the Greater Binghamton Health Center (GBHC) “wasted” $121,000 in taxpayer funding materials for a duct-cleaning project that weren’t used. The finding is part of an investigation of the GBHC by the New York State Inspector General’s office. (PHOTO CREDIT: NEW YORK STATE OFFICE OF MENTAL HEALTH WEBSITE)

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. — The plant superintendent of the Greater Binghamton Health Center (GBHC) is on administrative leave after a state investigation found he “wasted” $121,000 in taxpayer funds. 

The plant superintendent, Jeffrey Flansburg, 57, of Binghamton wasted those funds by “grossly overpaying” for materials for a duct-cleaning project, New York State Inspector General Letizia Tagliafierro recently announced.

Flansburg also took steps to conceal the purchases and never used the products, according to Tagliafierro, whose office had been investigating the GBHC, which is part of the New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH).

Background

As plant superintendent at the Southern Tier mental-health facility, Flansburg planned and supervised maintenance, repair, and construction activities. 

OMH provided Flansburg with a credit card for making purchases in accordance with New York State Finance Law, Office of General Services (OGS) guidelines and OMH’s own procurement policies. 

When making purchases, state agencies must first determine if a product or service is available from a “preferred source,” OGS centralized contract, or agency/multi-agency specific contract. If not, the agency may consider a discretionary purchase, generally under a $50,000 cap. Agencies doing so must document and justify the vendor selected, “reasonableness” of price, and ensure the purchase is from a responsible vendor. Purchases of more than $50,000 are subject to competitive bidding requirements as well as prior approval from the New York State Comptroller’s office.

The inspector-general investigation found that Flansburg had used a state credit card to purchase materials from vendors at “exorbitantly inflated prices while disregarding” New York State procurement requirements. The vendors included Florida–based Green Earth Supply (GES) and its subsidiaries. 

To conceal the purchases, Flansburg had the vendor bill the credit card in installments “so as not to exceed the card’s discretionary purchasing limit.” 

He also made “questionable” entries in OMH’s project-management system, claiming work on the project had been completed when no work had been conducted on the project. In fact, the products he purchased sat in a garage on the edge of GBHC’s campus, Tagliafierro’s office said.

“Mr. Flansburg wasted $121,000 in taxpayer dollars on products that were neither used or needed,” Tagliafierro said. “Beyond that, he grossly overpaid nearly $70,000 for the materials. These are serious, egregious abuses of the public’s trust, and OMH must make sure they never happen again.”

Based on the inspector general’s findings, OMH is taking disciplinary action against Flansburg.

In addition, Tagliafierro recommends that OMH implement “greater controls” over its purchasing and project monitoring and train its employees on the same.

It’s also calling for OMH to scrutinize credit-card purchases for improper purchases, inflated pricing, and improperly structured billing arrangements.

In addition, Tagliafierro recommends that OMH “regularly” audit purchases made by holders of state-assigned credit cards and remind staff of proper procurement procedures and “appropriate” vendor contact and ensure such guidance is provided to all new employees once they have a state credit card.

Flansburg is currently on administrative leave from OMH. The findings regarding Flansburg and GES have been provided to the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) for possible violations of New York State Public Officers Law and the Lobbying Act, as well as to OSC and OGS regarding GES for their review.      

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