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DEC 10 - DEC 17, 2015

State Expected to Release ECC Audit Soon

By Tony Farina

DEC 10, 2015

Tony Farina

If the exit conference last week between state auditors and the administration of Erie Community College (ECC) is any indication, the college is not too happy with the findings in the state comptroller’s audit report that could be released soon, the first audit of the financially troubled public institution in 20 years.

We have learned that the final exit conference was lengthy and at times quite contentious, and it came following perhaps the longest running “standard audit” ever by the state, one that began early last year and was originally expected to be released last spring.  But now the nearly year-long review is coming to an end and ECC has until Dec. 23 to give its formal response to the audit, meaning the findings could finally be released by early next month.

When I first talked to the state comptroller’s office last March, a spokesman called it a “standard audit,” and would not confirm it was launched in response to allegations of financial mismanagement at the college presented by informed public watchdogs.  But in the same conversation, the state official predicted the audit would be done by spring, and of course that target was not met.

As we reported during the course of the audit over the last several months, ECC’s vice president for legal affairs, Kristin Klein Wheaton, the top assistant to President Jack Quinn, attempted to control all interaction between the college staff and the state auditors, and asked for constant updates from staff on all contacts with the state auditors. 

The college has serious financial challenges under Quinn’s leadership and has been forced hike tuition, spend down reserves, and enact emergency measures to deal with the growing crisis. 

We have reported in several stories that Quinn is not held in high regard by many at the college and is seen as having more interest in his outside gigs than delivering the full-time leadership that he is being paid for at the rate of $192,500 a year.  Many say he has pretty much full control of the board of directors and is rarely challenged on his decisions in a job he tried to leave in 2013 in a silent bid to head the Buffalo Niagara Partnership.  He dropped out of contention when it was clear Dottie Gallagher Cohen was the Partnership’s first choice, and the former congressman from Hamburg signed a new two-year deal to stay at the ECC in the highest-paying public job in the area.

In fairness, ECC has suffered declining enrollment and a county subsidy that is well below what it should be, as is the state’s contribution.  County lawmakers have talked about doing something about the subsidy, but so far, not much has been done.

All parties may well be waiting for the results of Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s audit to decide the next course of action for ECC, and we’ll report fully on those findings as soon as they are made public.






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Publisher and Editor in Chief: Frank Parlato
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