News from the Associated Press - April 10, 2014

Associated Press
April 10, 2014

Audit: firm mishandled thousands of NY tax returns

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A New York state contractor hired to handle paper tax returns cost the state millions in overtime and made mistakes in nearly one quarter of the returns it processed last year.

The criticisms are outlined in an audit released Wednesday by Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

The audit estimates that the contractor introduced errors into 22 percent of the 2 million returns it handled. The contractor was also late in processing 90 percent of the returns.

The three-year, $16 million contract is held by New York State Industries for the Disabled, who partnered with a business called SourceHOV to process the returns.

The state's tax department racked up $6 million in overtime to correct the problems.

The department says it improved its oversight of the contractor to prevent similar problems this year.


Cuomo names members of NY juvenile justice group

NEW YORK (AP) — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has named 16 members to his commission on juvenile justice.

The group will recommend changes to how juveniles go through the justice system by the end of the year.

Cuomo says state laws that allow adult criminal charges at age 16 are unfair. New York and North Carolina are the only states that charge 16- and 17-year-olds as adults.

Cuomo said Wednesday that more than 33,000 young offenders had cases in adult criminal courts last year.

Coalition members include the Manhattan and Westchester County district attorneys, the Albany police chief, advocates for children, and the probation director for Schenectady (skeh-NEHK'-tuh-dee) County.

Raising the age a juvenile can be charged as an adult would ultimately be done by legislation.

Green Party's Hawkins begins bid for NY governor

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins is kicking off his campaign for New York governor, vowing to build on his third-place finish four years ago.

Hawkins announced his campaign Wednesday. He says that if elected he would support raising the minimum wage, more investments in renewable energy and public transportation, a ban on hydraulic fracturing and higher taxes on wealthy earners.

Hawkins says that while he's realistic about his chances as a third-party candidate, he believes many voters want an alternative to Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Republican candidate Rob Astorino.

A Syracuse resident, Hawkins is a longtime activist and is employed by UPS.
Hawkins won nearly 60,000 votes to finish third in the 2010 race behind Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Republican candidate Carl Paladino.


NY corruption commission quietly closing down

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The special commission appointed last year by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to investigate political corruption in New York is quietly winding down this week.

Cuomo says that's because the legislature passed new laws to toughen bribery prosecutions and establish a new campaign finance policeman.

The commission's two dozen members, many of them county district attorneys, have no more meetings or final report planned. Some staff has returned to the state offices they came from. Remaining staff have been referring out cases.

The investigative group won't say what cases are referred to other authorities, or even how many. It also isn't talking about plans for information it gathered or subpoenaed.

Cuomo established the panel after abandoning efforts to get reforms through the legislature last year. That followed federal bribery and embezzlement charges filed against several state lawmakers.


Pennsylvania Senate passes bill banning cash gifts

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Legislation to punish lawmakers and government officials for accepting cash gifts from anyone seeking to influence public policy has the approval of Pennsylvania state senators.

The unanimous vote Wednesday sends the bill to the House. It follows allegations last month in a Philadelphia Inquirer report that several House members accepted cash from a confidential informant in a criminal investigation.

The bill would make accepting cash or gifts similar to cash of $250 or more would be a felony. Amounts less than that would be a misdemeanor.

The bill wouldn't change the broader ethics law that lets Pennsylvania lawmakers and the governor accept any amount of non-cash gifts, such as dinners, trips or event tickets, although such gifts could violate conflict-of-interest laws.

Some legislators have called for a broader such ban.

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