State inspector general: more than $1 million in improper spending at NYSTI

state inspector general logoOh, the drama. A report out from the state Inspector General's office today alleges that Patricia Snyder, the director of the New York State Theater Institute (which is in Troy), "repeatedly violated state laws on nepotism and used the state authority to steer nearly $700,000 in payments and benefits to her husband, her children, and herself, while overseeing an additional $475,000 in questionable expenses."

A sampling of the allegations in the IG's report are after the jump.

The IG's office also alleges that Snyder "took actions to frustrate and mislead the inquiry" and at one point said:

"You know, you are getting into very dicey waters, artistically. I will tell you, the arts community will be up in arms with this line of questioning. We are talking about artists . . . Art is not like running an OGS office."

Snyder is NYSTI's founding director. According to the org's website, "Snyder believed that theatre for family audiences must be of the highest quality, and that theatre can be used to make the world a better place."

The Paterson administration's proposed budget this year planned to cut state funding for NYSTI by half this year and completely next year. A group popped up to oppose the cuts. From a recent post on the wall of the Save NYSTI Facebook page by Snyder: "Everyone, write your Senators and ask them to restore funding to NYSTI during budget negotiations. It's the last chance."

Update: E. Stewart Jones, who's representing Snyder, told NYT: "This report is mean spirited and monumental nonsense."

Among the allegations in the IG's report:

+ Snyder's "immediate family" worked on 49 of 54 stage productions between 2004 and 2009 and 16 of 17 audio books produced by NYSTI.

+ Snyder's son, a musician, was hired more than 75 percent of the time to work as a sound designer on those productions.

+ Snyder's daughter-in-law in almost 80 percent of NYSTI's stage shows over that time period.

+ The IG alleges Snyder approved highly irregular contracts to benefit herself in the amount of $54,100 -- in addition to her$127,050 annual salary.

+ Snyder acquired the adaptation rights to "Miracle on 34th Street" for NYSTI and then allegedly transferred the rights to herself and her son. The report concludes the Snyders earned more than $38,000 each from the resulting royalty payments.

+ NYSTI spent more than $150,000 on "an unnecessary apartment near Carnegie Hall which Snyder then improperly used as lodging for friends and family".

+ Snyder allegedly approved more than $277,000 in "questionable spending for hundreds of restaurant meals, such as lunch at the Russian Tea Room." NYSTI also paid for 83 chauffeured car rides, mostly to New York City, $1,563 in air fare to Ireland, gala tickets and gifts.

Comments

Wow. Some of that stuff is ridiculous! I am personally involved in local theater, and again I state - that stuff is ridiculous!

Snyder is no poor starving artist, that's for sure... is this just abuse or are criminal charges being considered?

"You know, you are getting into very dicey waters, artistically. I will tell you, the arts community will be up in arms with this line of questioning. We are talking about artists . . . Art is not like running an OGS office."

That is so very, very frustrating.

Enjoy Prison!

First Espada, now Snyder...how do people keep thinking they can get away with this?!

Today is indeed a banner day for the great state of New York.

Whats incredible is how blatant this corruption was - it was so obvious, for DECADES, that I somehow assumed they had some special exemption from ethics laws, being an arts organization. The sad part is that NYSTI is an essential organization for Arts in Education and the Snyder clan squandered something that might very soon be taken away from all of us. I hope that they are forced to repay all of this - maybe it will buy the organization another year of existence under new leadership, until we have a governor that values the arts and reinstates it in the budget? Oh, but that makes TOO much sense, doesn't it?

We are talking about artists . . . This is like Allen Iverson talking about practice.. Artists? Really, artists?

The Report of Investigation of the New York State Theatre Institute (NYSTI,) generated by the State of New York - Office of Inspector General, is based on a very serious error. The report accuses NYSTI of breaking several regulations that State Authorities are lawfully bound to follow. The report even identifies NYSTI as a State Authority.

NYSTI is not, nor ever was, a State Authority. By definition, “a Public Authority is a type of public-benefit corporation that takes on a more bureaucratic role, such as the maintenance of public infrastructure, that often has broad powers to regulate or maintain public property.” This is not the case with NYSTI. NYSTI does not control public property, but maintains residence on the Troy, NY campus of Russell Sage College, nor does NYSTI control other state agencies.

Furthermore, there is a “fairly obvious moral obligation that the state carries to continue funding these authorities, which provide incredibly important public services such as road maintenance and transit operations.” (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_state_public-benefit_corporations)

Governor Patterson has made it clear that NYSTI will cease to appear in the state budget as of the year 2011. Even the governor recognizes that NYSTI is not a State Authority, and he is under no obligation to finance the educational services that NYSTI provides and underwrites for the thousands of school children and teachers who benefit from the organization at little or no cost to themselves or their school district.

NYSTI is beholden to the laws pertaining to its charter. According to state archives, NYSTI’s mandate reads as follows: New York Statute-Education Law, Chapter 826 of the Laws of 1974, amended Arts & Cultural Affairs Law, Chapter 824 of the Laws of 1992. (source, dated 10/28/2008: http://www.budget.state.ny.us/pubs/archive/fy0809archive/enacted0809/coreMissionBudgeting/NYSTI_CoreMission.pdf)

NYSTI has acted in accordance with the regulations established by the Arts and Cultural Affairs Law. These laws regulate Visual and Performing Arts organizations, such as and including NYSTI. Performing Arts organizations operate differently from State Agencies due to the nature of their mission and internal structure.

As such, NYSTI is not, nor should be, held accountable for regulations designated for other state organizations. They should be held accountable for the regulations set to govern their charter.

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