Nassau County Comptroller Jack Schnirman released an audit last Thursday that found the Nassau County Office of the Public Administrator mismanaged millions of dollars in estate assets.
The office administers the estates of those who die without any known heirs.
The audit, launched in 2017 under the previous comptroller, George Maragos, revealed that the “court-appointed Public Administrator in charge of the office was not actively involved in its daily operations,” according to a news release from the comptroller.
Public Administrator Jeffrey DeLuca was also found to have inaccurately recorded his hours in regards to the time of his arrival and when he left.
The news release said Deluca retired from the position shortly after the comptroller’s office released the initial audit for him and his staff to review.
His lack of availability has led the office to rely on outside contractors who are paid at the expense of the estate funds.
Schnirman said in the news release that “more than $54 million was disbursed by this office over a three-year period to beneficiaries, vendors, and others without strong internal controls or oversight.”
The audit also found that the office’s procurement process is not upheld by county standards which “leads to the Public Administrator having a tremendous amount of control over which vendors are selected,” the statement says.
Other issues raised include the lack of timeliness for vendor advertisements, vendor applications being completed improperly as well as the annual vendors list not including all of the required information.
Notably, “thousands of dollars were paid to outside vendors not on the annual vendor list that did not have applications on file,” the report stated.
Along with the contractors, most of the office’s daily operations were performed by the deputy public administrator as well as a small number of staff members, the report said.
The IRS will be consulted on the matter due to the audit’s findings that payments to vendors could have been misrepresented by at least $3.3 million, which could result in these earnings not being reported to the IRS.
“These estates belong to people who no longer have a voice, and often times the families are not in a position to follow the process closely,” Schnirman said in his statement. “That is why this audit is important, to protect the funds that belong to the next of kin. I look forward to our team following-up with the new Public Administrator in six months to hopefully see real progress, as the public deserves immediate reform.”
A follow-up investigation of the Office of the Public Administrator will take place in six months under a new procedure introduced by Schnirman to ensure that the office is following the audit’s recommendations.