A letter received last June from the NY Department of State states that current members of the Green Hill Cemetery board are not to blame for a $129,318 deficit in the association’s trust fund, but the money still needs to be replaced. The letter, which does not specify a time-frame for the replacement, was received after an audit of the cemetery’s funds conducted by the state in April of this year. The letter cites a NY State law that allows only the interest earned from the trust fund to be used for maintenance expenses, while the principal must remain untouched.
According to the NY State Office of the Attorney General, a lawsuit was filed by Attorney General Elliot Spitzer in 1999 alleging that a husband and wife couple, who were the two sole members of the cemetery board at the time, mismanaged the cemetery’s funds by withdrawing over $150,000 from the trust fund to make payments to themselves and to their own for-profit company. The suit also alleged that the couple failed to account for nearly $20,000 in grants for vandalism repair from the NY State Cemetery Board.
In 2004, a settlement was reached in which the couple agreed to pay only $40,000 in restitution and were barred from serving as officers of any NY State non-profit corporation. Montgomery County Supreme Court records of the settlement cite the couple’s “limited ability to make restitution as a result of their financial circumstances” as a factor in the settlement.
Paul Damiano, who has served as the president of the association for half of his nearly 6 years on the board said that the cemetery continues to be able to meet its day-to-day operating expenses with the help of their yearly fundraising drives. Damiano said that the board is working on applying for a state grant to replace the deficit in the trust fund.
Green Hill is the burial site of a number of historic people, including carpet manufacturer Stephen Sanford, U.S. Rep. Samuel Wallin and many war veterans.
Jay Towne, writer for the Compass and a current member of the Green Hill Cemetery Board, assisted in the research for this article.