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Onondaga County comptroller audits film commission

Ellen Abbott
WRVO News File Photo
Onondaga County Legislature

Onondaga County Comptroller Bob Antonacci has embarked on an audit strategy that focuses on economic development. The first target is the Onondaga County Film Commission.

Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney’s administration created the one-person film commission about the same time Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced plans to build the Central New York Film Hub. The commission is part of the county’s Economic Development Department, with the goal of attracting moviemakers to Syracuse, who could also use the $15 million film hub facility in the town of DeWitt.

It’s the connection between the two that Antonacci says in a 34-page audit brings up a lot of questions -- including uncertainty about a $200,000 loan from the county to the entity that runs the film hub.

"Where’s the documentation? Is it a loan? Is it going to be paid back? Why are we advancing $200,000? Why do we have a lease with Fort Schuyler? Why do we have a film commissioner sitting out there in an empty building, when we have all this property downtown, where we have plenty of space?” said Antonacci.

The audit shows the county has spent $350,000 on the commission from January 2015 to August 2016, including salary and benefits, out-of town conferences, lease payments and a loan to Fort Schuyler Management Company.

Antonacci thinks this is a case where Onondaga County legislators should get involved, clearly establishing the film commission as a division within the Office of Economic Development, with a budget and mission and accountability.

The comptroller, who has often been at odds with County Executive Joanie Mahoney, says he’ll continue audits of other county economic development entities, because it’s he says an area he believes there isn’t a lot of transparency or accountability.

"The county needs to understand that we have a haphazard approach to economic development. There’s no rhyme or reason to what we do. We shoot from the hip and ask questions later,” said Antonacci.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.