Audit rips Downtown Brooklyn Partnership over bookkeeping, salaries

Audit rips Downtown Brooklyn Partnership over bookkeeping, salaries
The Brooklyn Paper / Julie Rosenberg

The organization in charge of charting Downtown’s future is having serious difficulty steering its own ship, according to a city audit released on Monday.

The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, a quasi-public group created by the Bloomberg Administration in 2006 to jumpstart economic development, is eager to expand its influence — but it has been deficient in a trio of basic managerial oversights, according to an audit by Comptroller John Liu.

The analysis, which examined data from July 1, 2008 to June, 2009, concluded that the Partnership:

• Lacks adequate controls to substantiate $1.2 million in payments to salaried employees.

• Fails to follow proper procedures regarding documenting $600,000 in private contributions.

• Doesn’t follow the procurement and reporting requirements of the $6-million consulting contract it holds with the Department of Small Business Services.

“Downtown Brooklyn Partnership could not document that their employees worked the hours that they were paid for and could not document leave entitlement,” the report states.

The audit found that 45 percent of the Partnership’s $2.7-million budget goes to salary, including $220,000 to its president, Joe Chan, the former senior policy advisor to Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff.

The timing of the audit’s release could not be more awkward for the Partnership, which is seeking to take over the Metrotech Business Improvement District, a Downtown group that raises millions in annual tax assessments. The BID held an emergency meeting on Tuesday morning to weigh the takeover, voting 21-9 in favor — but the tally is too close to call because each vote carries a different weight depending on the percentage of BID’s assessment that each voting member pays.

“If the audit says there are serious managerial problems and they want to take over the BID, don’t you think there’s a bit of a problem there?” asked Vincent Battista, a BID director and executive director of the Institute of Design and Construction on Willoughby Street. “The Partnership wants to manage the entire BID and it can’t manage itself.”

But Partnership officials rejected that line of criticism.

“The audit did not allege operational mismanagement or impropriety at any level,” said Lee Silberstein, a spokesman. “Rather, it offered a critique of three specific administrative practices, which, as DBP’s response indicates, will be considered.”

Silberstein said the group is working to ensure better practices, including implementation of formal mechanisms to track staff time and leave balances — a measure it adopted last year.

The seed money the Partnership receives from the city — $2 million at its inception in 2006 to just $250,000 this year — is the reason insiders said the group is looking to take over management of the Metrotech BID. The maneuver will allow it access to the BID’s hefty $2.6 million budget, raised through property tax.

The Partnership already manages business improvement districts representing the Fulton Mall and Court-Livingston-Schermerhorn street corridor, contracts that pay it about $216,000.

In addition, the Partnership continues its main job of marketing the area to lure businesses. It also works with the city to facilitate residential and commercial development. Recent achievements include the completion of the Fulton Mall streetscape project, and the installation of wireless Internet access at three Downtown parks.