MALONE — ComLinks is relinquishing its remaining programs, selling its building and working to develop a new role for itself in helping the poor.
Board President Joe Selenski said the Board of Directors wants to reinvent the community-action agency and exhaust all other possibilities before deciding on closure and dissolution.
But, in the meantime, the board has started the lengthy legal process to possibly dissolve ComLinks with guidance from the State Attorney General’s Office on what steps must be taken in court and how any assets would be disbursed.
SALE OF BUILDING
The board is also negotiating with three regional agencies to take over its Gleaning Program and has already given control of the Weatherization Program back to the state, which will use neighboring counties to provide the services.
Selenski said that whatever money its Main Street office building sells for will go to pay off existing debt, and if there is any cash left, it could be put toward returning ComLinks to a streamlined, grassroots-services program for struggling families.
That is, unless the board decides dissolving the agency is the best option left.
ComLinks has been in a downward spiral since a State Comptroller’s Office audit last year accused former Director Nancy Reich of using more than $100,000 in program-grant funds on a lavish lifestyle that included air flights, home appliances, massages, golf-club memberships and more.
She pleaded guilty in December 2011 to grand larceny and was ordered to repay the state $1,500. Reich will have a conditional discharge if she remains arrest-free for three years.
Financial personnel brought in to ComLinks since her firing in July 2010 have been unable to determine exactly how much money is missing or intermingled among other program accounts.
State agencies and vendors who have not been paid for services provided are demanding payment. Some date back as far back as 2009.
ComLinks is about $200,000 in the red, and about $40,000 of that is owed to local businesses, said Selenski, who at one point used his own money to meet the agency’s payroll.
The board used a line of credit and unrestricted funds to pay some vendors but now believes selling off assets and liquidating equipment will help pay everyone back in full.
Once bills are paid and the major programs have been successfully transferred, “we will still investigate the options for a grassroots restart of community action, or we will assist any future group to do the same,” Selenski said.
“We will have no thoughts of closure until we feel our community is best served with a cooperative transitioning of all programs remaining.”
Sen. Betty Little (R-Queensbury) and Assemblywoman Janet Duprey (R-Peru) have helped the board tremendously since its troubles began, but Selenski said ComLinks’s problems run so deep that it cannot guarantee it can serve low-income families in its present state.
Selenski said the transition to new agencies may be done by Saturday.
The board can then concentrate on selling its building, re-evaluating its mission and deciding the agency’s future.
“But we’re going to be here,” he said of the agency. “It’s not like we’re going to put a sign on the door and run like hell.”
Email Denise A. Raymo: firstname.lastname@example.org