White Plains, NY – Democratic caucus members of the Westchester County Board of Legislators (BOL) demanded again today that the Astorino Administration turn over documents and information spelling out how proven providers participating in the County’s Invest-in-Kids (IIK) program were denied funding for 2015 (the first year in a 3-year funding cycle), and instead were replaced by other, new providers. Also troubling is the fact that the providers denied 2015 funding in the 3-year contracts were not informed of the Administration’s decision to strip their funding until the end of January 2015.

The Democratic legislators made their concerns strongly heard at a joint meeting of the BOL Budget & Appropriations and BOL Community Services Committees, where Dr. Iris Pagan, executive director of the Westchester County Youth Bureau, was requested to answer questions regarding proposed BOL legislation to restore 2015 grant funding—about $45,000 per program— to the proven providers of twenty programs inexplicably shut out this year.

“Without a doubt, the Administration has created a real mess by summarily cutting proven Invest-in-Kids programs out of this year’s funding,” said Legislator Alfreda Williams (D-Greenburgh), chair of the BOL Community Services Committee. “These program providers are valuable community partners who have shown exemplary service to our residents for many years, and they deserve better treatment than this and proper respect for their work. We need to examine whether the evaluative process in regard to this year’s grant funding is at issue here or not.”

Exactly a month ago, the legislators met with Pagan and heard how the 2015 grant funding process for IIK went awry. Contrary to a law passed in 2011 that guaranteed funding for current IIK programs as part of the County Budget, the Astorino Administration instead issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for IIK youth services due in October 2014 and asked current program providers to apply as well.

To date, the BOL has not been privy to the 133 RFPs received by the Administration, the criteria for evaluating the RFPs, or the scores put on the RFPs—all of which Williams asked Pagan to provide to the BOL on February 2.

“The Administration’s stonewalling of information about the Invest-in-Kids proposals suggests a less than objective review was undertaken,” said Legislator Catherine Parker (D-Rye). “Because of this, funding the cut programs with the promise of a better proposal process in the future makes sense.”

Added Legislator MaryJane Shimsky (D-Hastings-on-Hudson): “The whole Invest-in-Kids process this year has the appearance of impropriety.  It is time for the Administration to come clean and give us complete answers,  including all relevant documents, on how programs were selected or not.  The children whose futures depend on these important programs deserve no less.”

Dr. Pagan told legislators in early February 2015 that instead of the usual evaluative process for the RFPs, which involves “readers” and adjudicators from outside the Administration—namely, members of the County’s Youth Council and Westchester Campaign for Kids Coalition (in order to ensure objectivity and reduce political bias)—she was instructed this year to keep the process “in house.” Meanwhile, the 2011 BOL legislation regarding IIK notes, “No changes to contracts between the County and agencies providing Invest in Kids Fund programs are permitted without the prior approval of the Board of Legislators.”

Amazingly, Dr. Pagan admitted to not knowing anything about the 2011 County law governing the Youth Bureau and IIK funding for agencies currently providing programs for children at risk.

“It is unconscionable to cut from Westchester County funding—for no identifiable reasons whatsoever—successful programs that have served Westchester youth for dozens of years,” said Legislator Ken Jenkins (D-Yonkers). “The Board of Legislators should vote immediately for funding these essential agencies and their Invest-in-Kids programs.”

“Last month, the Board of Legislators requested the RFPs for the Invest-in-Kids programs and the Youth Bureau’s scoring of them, yet we still have not received them,” said Legislator Pete Harckham (D-North Salem). “This imperils the Board’s ability to perform appropriate due diligence for the people of Westchester. It also causes suspicion as to why the Administration overruled some of the department’s requested program approvals.”

BOL Majority Leader Catherine Borgia (D-Ossining) noted that the legislators were told that Administration had spoken to defunded program providers but would not commit to finding money for programs that had been defunded.

“It is important that Westchester resources are used wisely,” added Borgia, who as a member of the Youth Bureau vetted IIK proposals. “It doesn’t make sense to defund proven programs in order to fund new programs.”