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Stringer’s audit of Brooklyn Public Administrator’s Office slams ‘weak controls’

May 26, 2021 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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The recent audit of the Kings County Public Administrator’s Office by City Comptroller Scott Stringer is raising eyebrows in the legal community and is bound to affect the impending race for a new surrogate judge.

The agency, which manages estates belonging to people who die without a will or heirs, is fairly dysfunctional and sometimes loses track of real estate property, the audit charges. 

The audit concluded that the office has “weak controls and insufficient procedures in place” for collecting and recording personal property belonging to the deceased, among other serious problems,” Bklyner reported.

“Our audit uncovered disturbing weaknesses in the Brooklyn public administrator’s office that hurt its ability to safeguard and account for personal belongings of the deceased,” Stringer said. “Bureaucracy and conflicts cannot stand in the way of responsible management of estates and their property. We owe it to those New Yorkers we have lost and their families to be responsible stewards.”

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The KCPA is responsible for protecting estates theft, making burial arrangements, paying taxes and distributing assets in accordance with the Kings County Surrogate’s Court. Many people are doubtless familiar with occasional Public Administrator’s sales of unclaimed property. 

However, the audit found that the KCPA could not account for about 60 of more than 1,200 bags of estate property kept in its vault, according to Bklyner. Of those 60 bags, 52 were missing from the vault, and the other eight were found empty.

The Comptroller’s Office also found hundreds of items not listed in official records, such as baseball cards, vintage typewriters and guitars, the audit found.

Finally, orders from the Surrogate’s Court often conflict each other, Bklyner said. Some of the problems allegedly stem from disagreements between Public Administrator Richard Buckheit and Surrogates Court Judge Harriet Thompson, one of two surrogate judges in Brooklyn.

Stringer’s asked Judge Thompson and the other Brooklyn surrogate judge, Hon. Margarita Lopez-Torres, to review their orders with the state’s Office of Court Administration, Bkyner reported.

The Kings County Public Administrator’s Office said that the audit had several valid recommendations, but that personal disputes had to be ironed out first.

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