- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 20, 2015

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - New Yorkers won’t be picking up the entire tab for a state mental health contractor’s two-day conference at a yacht club including a five-figure bill for alcohol or a staff picnic.

Auditors have rejected $152,000 billed by Queens-based PSCH they said had little to do with helping people with mental disabilities, including a sunset cruise, nearly $11,000 for alcohol and $5,000 for extra guests.

The state comptroller’s audit of Office of Mental Health payments for one year found almost $32,000 billed as administrative expenses for the directors’ conference at the Montauk Yacht Club Resort & Marina and nearly $23,000 for a staff picnic at a park in Queens.

PSCH provides housing and services to people with mental disabilities and was paid $6.8 million by the state for that fiscal year that ended June 30, 2013.

PSCH spokesman Willie Scott said he hadn’t seen the final audit yet and declined to comment.

“The rules for conference costs are clear,” state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said. “And lavish parties with alcohol, cruises and extra guests are not allowable.”

The Office of Mental Health had told the comptroller’s office, in response to a draft audit report, that it’s recovering overpayments and ensuring PSCH staff charge expenses in accordance with the state manual.

“OMH will seek to recoup any and all of PSCH’s inappropriate expenses supported by state funds,” spokesman Ben Rosen said. Asked about any similar billing by other contractors, he said the office “periodically identifies inappropriate expenses via audit” and seeks return of any state money and has enhanced training for service providers.

According to the comptroller’s office, the expenses included nearly $6,000 for lodging after the conference, $1,000 for the sunset cruise and $1,000 in petty cash for tips. Auditors examined $1.6 million of the nonprofit’s expense claims for the year, about 9 percent of all its general ledger transactions.

Improper picnic expenses included about $15,000 for the picnic itself, $3,400 for staff appreciation giveaways like coolers, T-shirts and umbrellas, $2,400 for chairs, tables and tablecloths ordered twice, $520 for raffle prizes, $300 for name painting and $1,300 for ice cream.

The reported also cited more than $63,000 in other expenses that were paid twice.

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