Agency for the disabled stonewalling NYS, audit says

Mar 7, 2017

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli says the agency that investigates mistreatment of disabled people in state care refused to hand over thousands of records needed to complete a state audit.

DiNapoli on Monday called the decision by the Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs "troubling" and said it raises questions about its performance.

“New York created a new agency to protect people with disabilities, addictions and mental illness from individuals who would harm them. The Justice Center faced the difficult task of sorting through a system troubled with delays, questionable follow up and other problems,” DiNapoli said. “Even though the Justice Center is over three years old, we don’t know how effectively it is operating or whether changes are needed. This isn’t about finger-pointing if some of the old system’s problems still exist. It is about keeping New York’s most vulnerable people safe and seeing what progress has been made and how the system can be improved.”

DiNapoli's office released a copy of the audit to the Associated Press a day before it is to be released publicly. As of September 2, 2015, the audit reports that since the Justice Center's creation, it had received reports of over 113,000 incidents that were within its jurisdiction to investigate.

The Justice Center said in a statement that state law prohibited it from handing over the records, which included unsubstantiated reports of abuse and neglect that contained confidential information:

"As the Justice Center has repeatedly explained, the Justice Center is prohibited, by law, from providing OSC with access to unsubstantiated records. Specifically, in the Justice Center's enabling statute, the Legislature recognized that OSC has no need for these highly confidential records: it can audit the Justice Center's performance by accessing records in substantiated cases. Examining the validity of the Justice Center's decision to unsubstantiate allegations of abuse or neglect would be an inappropriate audit objective as OSC does not have the legal expertise to make such an assessment."

DiNapoli is seeking legislation to make it clear the agency should release the records going forward.