SOME ACTION OFF THE FIELD SUPER BOWL NIGHT

JORDAN CARLEO-EVANGELIST
Section: Capital Region,  Page: D3

Date: Friday, February 10, 2012

The revelation that an Albany not-for-profit run by Guilderland Democratic Chairman David Bosworth and his wife was hit with a $167,000 federal tax lien has re-started the dormant political vortex surrounding the Center for the Advancement of Family, better known as Project Strive.


While most people in the county were thrilling to the Giants' Sunday night Super Bowl victory, County Legislator Deborah Busch let loose a scorching email press release asking County Comptroller Michael Conners and County Executive Daniel McCoy to audit the organization's books and calling the lien a "gross failure by the executive and legislative branches."


Busch, a Berne Republican sounding the part of the tea party favorite elected in November to represent the Hilltowns, further suggested the case is a prime example of why Conners needs subpoena power.


The GOP lawmaker cites "the appearance of nepotism" at play in the fact that Bosworth, the executive director, and his wife, Eileen, are the largely county-funded organization's two highest-paid employees -- an issue also raised by Bosworth's Republican opponents in his unsuccessful 2007 re-election bid to the Town Board.


Busch also questions the role of Democratic Guilderland Town Board member Patricia Slavick in overseeing the organization. Slavick served as treasurer of the nonprofit's board, but both Slavick and Bosworth told Insider that she officially stepped down from that job several weeks ago and had unofficially given it up sometime before.


(Slavick also said that she was not involved in preparing any of the tax documents in question.)


But the pressure on Strive -- which received more than $800,000 in county funding in each of the last two years but according to the IRS failed to remit required payroll withholding taxes for Medicare and Social Security dating to 2010 -- is coming not just from the other side of the political aisle.


In the wake of the lien, the legislature's Democratic majority leader, Frank Commisso, is sponsoring a resolution "requesting the county executive to verify the fiscal stability to provider organizations" to ensure no interruption of services to county residents.


Commisso told Insider that the measure isn't just about Strive and seeks help answer questions lawmakers had during last year's budget process.


"It's important that there's more scrutiny as to their background," he said.


Conners, a Democrat, has said he will look into Strive's books, including the fact that a current 990 tax form required of not-for-profits by the IRS does not appear to be publicly available. But Conners, ever the horse trader, said he won't dive into Strive's finances until the county brings his staff back up to full strength.


"We're swamped," Conners said.


McCoy's office, meanwhile, begged off the issue until and unless the IRS asks them to get involved.


"This is a federal issue," said Mary Rozak, McCoy's spokeswoman. "At this point, it does not involve us."


Bosworth said his organization has been buffeted by county funding cuts stemming from disagreements about the services Strive would provide and acknowledged that administrative work has suffered as he and his colleagues have been forced to devote a greater percentage of Strive's budget to trying to keep kids out of foster care.


Bosworth said he has been working with the nonprofit's outside accountants to correct any problems, including the delayed 990s and said the money trouble stems in part from the county lagging on some of its payments for months.


Busch's assault, he said, reeks of nasty politics and ignores the fact that Strive has succeeded at keeping kids out of foster care despite being hard for cash.


In particular, Bosworth said, Strive's problems with the county seem to have worsened not long after he was involved in a bitter contest with Commisso for control of the Albany County Democratic Committee -- a 2007 dispute that went to court and wound up with the two uneasily sharing power for less than two years.


"It's a tough business," he said, noting he and his wife have been at Strive nearly four times longer than he's been involved in politics. "I think that's where I crossed the line into the major leagues."


Busch said she isn't accepting any excuses for a failure of basic managerial oversight.


"You can blame it on politics back and forth all you want," she said. "I'm not here to point fingers at any particular party, I'm here to root out all of corruption."


Inside Politics is a companion to the Local Politics blog -- http://blogs.timesunion.com/localpolitics -- and compiled by Jordan Carleo-Evangelist. Reach the Insider via email at jcarleo-evangelist@timesunion.com, on the phone at 454-5445 or on Twitter @JCEvangelist_TU