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GOP state Sen. Akshar alleges political bias in delayed grant funding for projects

Akshar Grants WEB

Broome County-area state Senator Fred Akshar is alleging Democrats in the state Legislature are holding up grant funding for several projects.

Akshar is asking state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli to conduct an audit of the State and Municipal Facilities Program, which allows legislators to designate funding for businesses, local governments and other organizations in their communities to receive state funding.

Akshar picked the Greater Good Grocery store, a nonprofit working to provide food access on Binghamton’s north side, to receive funds in 2020. Dr. Joseph Sellepack, executive director of the Broome County Council of Churches, which runs the store, said the funding still hasn’t been delivered.

"It's mind boggling to me to think of why a grocery store that's in a food desert would be a political lightning rod,” Sellepack said.

Akshar blames political bias for holding up a dozen of his projects.

"The reality of this is that they just don't want to pay these projects because they were put forth by a Republican,” Akshar said. “I mean, that is the reality, right? How else do you slice this?"

Akshar is stepping down from the Legislature and will take over as Broome County sheriff next month. He said he’s spoken with his successor, Democrat Lea Webb, and asked her to continue pushing for the funding to be delivered.

Asked for comment on Akshar’s allegations, Democratic Binghamton Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo said she’s looking into the matter and will also work with Webb on the issue.

“I am trying to find out how many organizations were given the authorization to spend but were not reimbursed,” Lupardo wrote in a statement to WSKG. “Because there is a big separation between the two houses of the Legislature when it comes to grants, my new Senate colleague Lea Webb will be in the best position to get accurate updates once she takes office. I will offer to assist her in navigating this process.”

Akshar sent a letter to the state comptroller, asking him to audit the funding program and determine if projects offered by Democrats move faster than Republicans.

A spokesperson for the state Senate Majority didn’t return a request for comment Thursday.

Vaughn Golden has been reporting across New York since 2016. Working as a freelancer while studying journalism and economics at Ithaca College, Vaughn has reported for a number of outlets including the Albany Times Union, New York Post, and NPR among others. Prior to coming to WSKG full-time, Vaughn was a reporter for the Watertown Daily Times. Vaughn now covers government and politics for WSKG.