Times Union of Albany: A bad deal by shadow agency

Craig M. Johnson

By JAMES M. ODATO, Capitol bureau 

A mismanaged state authority lost taxpayers at least $922,645 by buying high and selling low on a rusted ferry, according to a highly critical new Senate report into the acquisition and unloading of the M/V Islander.

The report says the Governors Island Preservation and Education Corp. is also guilty of poor due diligence, and should take "appropriate disciplinary action" against staffers who authorized $500,000 for the former Martha's Vineyard vessel and another $445,000 in consulting and associated costs. The ferry was never used after it was learned the craft needed another $6 million to $7 million in repairs to meet standards. Instead, it was sold for $23,600 on eBay.

"Flawed judgment resulted in a significant waste of taxpayers dollars, casting serious questions about the ability of current GIPEC staff to manage funds," said the report by Sen. Craig Johnson's Standing Committee on Investigations and Government Operations. The report was completed late last week.

The report analyzes information from Johnson's hearing in May following a Times Union report on the fate of the Islander. The authority had purchased the vessel in July 2007 for $500,000 from a Massachusetts steamship authority that had gotten 57 years out of the ferry and had retired it.

Johnson, D-Port Washington, said the findings reflect "a recurring symptom of a state government that is comprised of layer upon calcified layer of bureaucracy." He promised more scrutiny of scrutiny "shadow" government agencies such as GIPEC.

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