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Letter to the Editor:
Last month the Valhalla Board of Education quietly voted to settle a lawsuit and repay $1.1 million illegally transferred from the Town of Greenburgh under the ill-fated and illegal Westhelp Partnership Grant.
In the era of 2 percent budget caps, this settlement represents nearly 3 percent of the annual school budget, yet it was not mentioned in the district’s August newsletter. So before the illegal Westhelp Partnership fades from memory, here is a taxpayer’s recap.
The so-called Westhelp Partnership gave effective control of $6 million to the Mayfair-Knollwood Civic Association, which was headed by Ned McCormack. As chairman of Greenburgh’s Valhalla Schools Committee, Mr. McCormack had a lot of authority.
There were 85 approved programs, costing an average of $22,000 each, including:
- Trips to the opera
- A moonlight dinner cruise on the Hudson
- Summer trips to the Grand Canyon
- Skating at Rockefeller Center
- Dinners at trendy restaurants
- Oktoberfest at Bear Mountain
- Adult stand-up comedy classes
- Cabaret performances
- Adult piano lessons
- Parenting classes - “Meetings focused on the realities and difficulties of raising a child”
- Money was even illegally transferred to a private foundation
- High School Jazz Band and Chorus took a luxury cruise
- $50,000 annual stipends for a Valhalla school principal
Though there has never been a formal accounting rendered, New York State Comptroller's Office audits "identified significant deficiencies in the internal controls over the accounting for and disbursement of Westhelp Grant monies." Also saying, of "the approximately $1.7 million expended for the Grant, approximately $456,000 was not expended in accordance with the Grant agreement, proposals or applicable laws."
Now the courts have ruled the entire $1.8 million grant was illegal and $1.1 million will be returned.
Who is responsible? Some of the same people that now run county and local government: Paul Feiner, Ned McCormack, County Legislator Mike Smith, who along with every Valhalla school board member ignored law and reason to play philanthropist with taxpayer money meant to house homeless families.
Who will bail them out? The taxpayers of Mount Pleasant and North Castle.
The author is a resident of Valhalla.