Today’s news:

Flushing school closes shop in wake of DiNapoli audit

Bilingual SEIT along Northern Boulevard is now shuttered after the city did not renew a multimillion-dollar contract with the for-profit educator.
TimesLedger Newspapers

A Flushing-based special needs school closed last week months after state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli alleged its owners misused $1.5 million in taxpayer dollars, according to employees.

The sudden shutdown gave parents just days to look for a new school for their children.

Bilingual SEIT & Preschool Inc., at 150-07 Northern Blvd., had previously been under a $23 million, two-year contract to provide education for about 700 special needs students at a handful of locations across the city, according to DiNapoli’s July audit. The comptroller contended that owner Cheon Park used taxpayer money to pay off car loans, rent properties that had no connection to the school, purchase items like expensive children’s furniture and inflate the salary of his wife, according to the report.

Park declined to comment for this story.

The city Department of Education did not comment specifically about the audit, but a spokeswoman said it did not renew its contract with Bilingual.

Parents and employees said that last Thursday and Friday the school closed its doors in several locations.

“How could you drop a bombshell on parents just like that?” asked Iasia Vann, who sent her autistic son to Bilingual’s Manhattan location and was alerted at 9 p.m. Friday by the DOE that the school would not be open the following Wednesday, when classes were set to resume.

Vann said the school’s Flushing location closed last Thursday.

Now Vann said she has to take off work to go through the arduous process of finding a suitable school for her 4 1/2-year-old son.

“You have to make sure these schools have the right equipment and the staff to service your child,” she said. “It’s not like finding a public school. It takes a lot of work and a lot of time.”

It was not immediately clear how long the DOE had known it was not going to renew its contract with Bilingual, but Vann said a DOE representative called her last Thursday and asked if she would like a tour of another school in Manhattan, a day before the department called to tell her that her school was closed.

Employees also found out they were out of a job Friday, according to one woman who works at the Manhattan location but did not want to be named.

“The rug was taken out from under our feet,” she said, adding that Park promised to pay his employees but has yet to set a concrete date.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Pin It
Print this story

Reader Feedback

Nicolina says:
I guess the owner of the school doesnt believe in Karma. Its obvious that he DOES have the money to pay the teachers, but just as he falsley claimed he didnt understand the rules on billing the State as he over billed $1.5 million , he also denies having the funds to pay people who worked hard to earn a living. Now we as hard working employees have to beg for what we worked for?? Where is the justice here,,and why isnt this thief in jail. He bought cars and furniture for his own personal use...why doesnt he auction it off to collect the money he robbed from his loyal employees?
And to add salt to the wounds..unemployment isnt willing to compensate any "professionals"(Teachers, administrators,therapist, etc) for 2-3 months of unpaid wages. Its as though the system is forcing people to go on welfare or unemployment and NOT to become professionals or to better ourselves. Yet the thieves like Mr Cheong Park, are getting away with robbing the families of Special need children, as well as the Teachers that work hard to provide services for these families.
Sept. 26, 2012, 4:25 pm
Nicolina says:
« HUDSON VALLEY FAMILIES NEED RELIEF | Main | "THANK YOU ... DEBBIE SPENDITNOW!" »

BILINGUAL OFFICIALS DIDN'T COMPREHEND THE RULES

DiNapoli: Queens Special Education Contractor Overcharged State $1.5 Million

Bilingual SEIT & Preschool Inc., a Queens-based provider of special education services, inappropriately charged New York City's Department of Education (DoE) by nearly $1.5 million for salaries, vehicle leases and items such as cosmetics and children's furniture, according to an audit released last week by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. The findings were referred to the Queens County District Attorney's Office.

"Special education services are critical for thousands of children and every tax dollar meant for them should be spent on them," DiNapoli said. "Sadly, my auditors have found that has not been the case at Bilingual SEIT & Preschool. As we have seen in several audits of special education providers, taxpayers are footing the bill for expenses they shouldn't have to cover, no-show jobs and other perks. This cannot continue."

The audit is part of an in-depth review by DiNapoli's office of New York's special education program by a team of auditors and investigators. Three audits released in June led to the arrests of four contractors and restitution of $610,000.

Bilingual provides special education to about 700 disabled children between the ages of three and five years. DoE pays tuition to Bilingual using rates set by the State Education Department (SED) in the state reimbursable costs manual. SED oversees special education programs statewide. Costs reported by providers must comply fully with the guidelines in the manual.

DiNapoli's auditors, however, found numerous reporting by Bilingual that did not comply with the guidelines. For instance, Bilingual officials could not provide records to show that 26 employees had actually worked the time they were paid for. Auditors disallowed the $233,368 paid to those employees.

Auditors also disallowed $107,380 paid to Bilingual's assistant executive director, the former wife of its executive director. She was paid $369,081 for fiscal years 2007-08 and 2008-09, but she actually performed the services of a payroll specialist.

Bilingual inappropriately charged the state for $795,368 in other costs not allowed by the manual, including:
•$186,819 in rental expenses for three buildings that were unrelated to the SEIT program, one of which was under construction;
•$60,280 in lease payments, gas, insurance, parking, tolls, and maintenance costs for three vehicles (a Toyota Matrix, a Honda Odyssey with a rear entertainment system, and a Mercedes Benz);
•$22,347 in interest expenses for bank loans taken out by the former wife of the executive director; and
•$5,567 in children's bedroom furniture, as well as other charges for cosmetics and cell phone expenses.

Auditors concluded Bilingual officials may also have deprived federal, state, and local taxing authorities of a significant amount of tax revenues by treating top officials of the school, as well as certain other staff, as independent contractors rather than as employees. The executive director, received $730,546 in total compensation for calendar years 2007 through 2009. Of this amount, just $108,270 was reported on his W-2 forms. The remaining $622,276 was paid to him as an independent contractor and was reported on the 1099 forms that were issued to him. Moreover, $577,276 of the $622,276 was issued to a separate corporation he formed. He admitted to investigators he did this intentionally because he had cash flow problems.

Similarly, just $114,504 of the $541,077 in compensation the assistant executive director received for calendar years 2007 through 2009 was reported on her W-2 forms. The remaining $426,573 paid to her as an independent contractor was reported on forms 1099. Again, $234,573 (55 percent) of the $426,573 was issued to a separate corporation she had formed.

DiNapoli recommended SED:
•Recover all reimbursements made to Bilingual for inappropriate or unsupported expenses included in Bilingual's consolidated financial reports. Consider recouping payments made for personal items directly from responsible Bilingual officials.
•Schedule regular training to Bilingual officials and other providers on what costs are eligible for reimbursement; remind and instruct Bilingual officials that personal expenses are not eligible for State reimbursement; and revise, as appropriate, SED written guidance to ensure that this issue is clear therein.
•Require Bilingual's senior management attend ethics training on their fiduciary responsibilities.

The audit also recommended Bilingual:
•Ensure that its CFRs include only appropriate and allowable reimbursable expenses; and
•Ensure that any and all persons who work directly under the supervision of Bilingual officials are treated as employees and not independent contractors.

SED officials generally agreed with the audit's findings and intend to implement the recommendations as appropriate. Bilingual officials, through their attorneys, also agreed with most of the report's conclusions and recommendations. The complete comments of both SED and Bilingual are included in the audit.

DiNapoli is continuing to work with SED and the New York City Department of Education to address these issues and protect funds from misappropriation.

For a copy of the report visit:
http://www.osc.state.ny.us/audits/allaudits/093012/11s13.pdf

Last month, DiNapoli released three other audits of special education providers as part of his special education initiative. Those audits can be found at:
http://www.osc.state.ny.us/press/releases/june12/062512.htm
Sept. 26, 2012, 4:27 pm
Nicolina says:
BILINGUAL OFFICIALS DIDN'T COMPREHEND THE RULES

DiNapoli: Queens Special Education Contractor Overcharged State $1.5 Million

Bilingual SEIT & Preschool Inc., a Queens-based provider of special education services, inappropriately charged New York City's Department of Education (DoE) by nearly $1.5 million for salaries, vehicle leases and items such as cosmetics and children's furniture, according to an audit released last week by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. The findings were referred to the Queens County District Attorney's Office.

"Special education services are critical for thousands of children and every tax dollar meant for them should be spent on them," DiNapoli said. "Sadly, my auditors have found that has not been the case at Bilingual SEIT & Preschool. As we have seen in several audits of special education providers, taxpayers are footing the bill for expenses they shouldn't have to cover, no-show jobs and other perks. This cannot continue."
Sept. 26, 2012, 4:28 pm
Nicolina says:
Please take a look at this article as well

http://www.nyrealestatelawblog.com/2012/07/bilingual_officials_didnt_comp.html
Sept. 26, 2012, 4:32 pm

Enter your comment below

By submitting this comment, you agree to the following terms:

You agree that you, and not TimesLedger.com or its affiliates, are fully responsible for the content that you post. You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; doing so may lead to the removal of your post and to your being permanently banned from posting to the site. You grant to TimesLedger.com the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part world-wide and to incorporate it in other works in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

CNG: Community Newspaper Group