New York State Worker Accused of Taking Off Friday - For 17 Years

Howard Dean is accused of bilking New York taxpayers out of $500,000

April 14, 2010— -- A New York Department of Corrections employee took the idea of casual Friday's to a whole new level, taking every Friday off for the last 17 years, the New York State Comptroller's office said.

The now retired Howard Dean is accused of bilking the state taxpayers out of over $500,000 in fraudulent activities, including $229,765 in money paid to him for all the Friday's that the comptroller alleges Dean didn't work.

"This certainly gives new meaning to casual Fridays," Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli said at a news conference Tuesday.

Dean, 64, is potentially facing charges of conspiracy, falsifying business records, defrauding the government, larceny, and official misconduct, the Comptroller's office said.

The joint report issued by DiNapoli and State Inspector General Joesph Fisch included allegations that read like a catalogue of ways to bilk the boss.

Dean retired in August 2008 as director for the food center, located at the Oneida Correction Facility earning a salary of $112,743, the report says.

The allegations first started to emerge in 2007 when Deputy Commissioner Gayle Hapoknik noticed that Dean was listed as working in Albany, but living in Rome, N.Y., nearly 90 miles away.

"It came to her attention that his listed work station was Albany, N.Y., even though he worked in Rome N.Y., and was listed in travel status. She recognized that was an inappropriate arrangement," Department of Corrections spokesman Erik Kriss said to ABC News today.

According to the report, that travel status allowed Dean to allegedly charge the state from 1992 to 2008 over $200,000 in travel reimbursement for hotel and per diem expenses for meals after Dean's "senior management inappropriately designated the official location of his job so Dean could improperly obtain reimbursement for travel costs," the report says.

Dean also allegedly used a state vehicle inappropriately, charging $32,292 in gas and tolls, falsified claims of $7,393 in toll charges and falsified documents where Dean allegedly said he stayed at a hotel in Rome for 75 nights when he did not, according to the report.

"He had an arrangement with the owner and manager of the hotel to charge his state credit card on nights that he didn't stay at the hotel," the report says.

In addition, Dean allegedly received $2,992 in state housing payments when he was not in fact entitled to stay in state housing.

The former food center director allegedly also "double dipped" on meal reimbursements by submitting requests for meal reimbursements totaling $1,831, although the report states that he ate his meals at the food center.

Finally, Dean is accused of collecting unwarranted benefits totaling $18,065 for vacation time received that he was not entitled to due to the 17 years of Friday's off. He is currently collecting a pension of $57,381 according to the report.

Dean Was Allegedly Aided by Supervisors in Fraudulant Activity

"Dean blatantly defrauded taxpayers while management looked the other way," DiNapoli said in a statement. "It's outrageous. Individuals responsible for our correctional system deliberately disregarded the rules and let one of their own steal from taxpayers."

The audit places some of the blame on Dean's supervisors, saying they were aware of his activities and allowed Dean to continue his fraudulent activities.

"The uninterrupted fleecing of the state's treasury for 17 years by Mr. Dean could not have occurred without the acquiescence, if not the complicity, of his supervisors," Fisch said.

Dean could not be reached for comment, but the comptroller's report included a response from Dean during questioning.

"You are questioning my integrity and I never did anything dishonest that I knew of....Correctional Services didn't give me one red cent more than I honestly earned," Dean told investigators.

According to Kriss, no matter the culture of the commissioners' office at the time, the activity by Dean and his supervisors was unacceptable.

"That's obviously unacceptable. If you work a five day week, you work five day week, Kriss said.

Howard Dean was reached today by phone at his home and told ABC News he had "no comment."

Jennifer Freeman, a spokeswoman for the comptroller's office, told ABC News, "We've referred this to the Oneida County District Attorney Scott D. McNamara."

McNamara told ABC News in an email that his investigators were still interviewiing witnesses and collecting evidence.

"I anticipate we present the case to a grand jury sometime in the next month," McNamara said.