County responds to inquiry after Pataki resignation
By Holly Toal
The acting director of the Putnam County Visitor’s Bureau says the state attorney general’s office was “supportive” of the agency’s plan to move forward with a fully functional board of directors after the resignation and investigation of its former chief, Libby Pataki.
Acting Director Frank Smith reported on July 14 to the Putnam County Legislature’s Economic Development Committee.
“They were supportive,” he said of the state office. “They had questions regarding how we’re moving forward into the future.”
The attorney general’s office opened an inquiry in February into the daily operations of the non-profit Visitor’s Bureau after the Journal News reported its board of directors, which hires and oversees its executive director, did not meet regularly and was not providing the fiscal oversight required by law.
The inquiry also focused on a second non-profit, the Putnam Tourism Corp., apparently created by Pataki without the legislature’s or county executive’s knowledge, that also did not appear to have a functioning board.
Pataki, the wife of former Gov. George Pataki and a Garrison resident, drew salaries from both organizations. She resigned in March, and Smith was promoted. A graduate of Syracuse University, Smith spent two years as an intern with the agency beginning in 2012 before being appointed deputy director under Pataki in May 2014 and has since run its day-to-day operations.
Since the shake-up, the county has been advertising for volunteers to sit on the board of directors but has only heard from seven people, Smith said. All seven will be appointed, he said, to create the new board of directors.
“Our plan is to have our first board meeting the first week in August,” said Smith, during which the board is expected to adopt bylaws, appoint additional members and review applications for a project coordinator.
Postings for that position have drawn more interest, with more than 40 applicants who “all appear to be extremely qualified,” Smith told lawmakers.
Legislator Roger Gross (R-Southeast) said he is optimistic about the direction of the Visitor’s Bureau. “We’ve cleared the air, gotten a fresh start, and I think that’s healthy,” he said.
Smith said he will meet again with the attorney general’s office in September.