Today was a major win for Erie County residents as the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General ("OIG") threatened a financial disaster seven years after we suffered one of our worst natural disasters on record - the October 2006 Surprise Storm.
That storm brought out the best in our community. However, nearly seven years after the storm's snows melted and the last tree limbs were cleaned up, we were still dealing with the storm's after-effects. OIG issued an audit claiming that Erie County should repay $48.5 million in storm-related cleanup costs because the county did not adhere to proper hiring practices regarding local companies. The audit was later revised to state Erie County did not follow other procurement guidelines during the cleanup.
Immediately, my staff and I went to work refuting OIG's audit and proved that it included erroneous understandings of the law, incomplete information, and incorrect findings.
In late June, I joined Senator Charles Schumer and FEMA Administrator W. Craig Fugate in the Senator's Washington, DC office to discuss the audit and review the findings. The meeting provided me an opportunity to present to Administrator Fugate the numerous reasons why Erie County should not be held liable for recoupment of the funds used during the extensive cleanup.
Today, I am pleased to report that FEMA has come to the same conclusions that both Senator Schumer and I did and is rejecting nearly the entirety of the OIG Audit findings. In all FEMA will only seek $705,604 in funding be returned, a fraction of the possible $48.5 million OIG originally recommended, rendering Erie County, effectively, unharmed by this deeply flawed Audit.
I feel like Erie County has been vindicated by FEMA's response and now we can all put that disaster finally behind us.