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Probed Co-Op Spent Thousands on Board Members' Appliances, Documents Show

By Katie Honan | December 9, 2016 9:45am
 Dayton Beach Park Co-Op said the board members refunded the cost of the kitchen appliances through their maintenance fees.
Dayton Beach Park Co-Op said the board members refunded the cost of the kitchen appliances through their maintenance fees.
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DNAinfo/Katie Honan

ROCKAWAY BEACH — An affordable housing co-op currently under investigation by the city purchased thousands of dollars worth of kitchen appliances for at least two board members, according to purchase order forms — but the board president said the costs were fully refunded by members as part of a "chargeback" program available to all co-op residents, DNAinfo New York has learned.

The board of Dayton Beach Park, a city-subsidized complex with more than 1,100 apartments spread across five oceanfront buildings, signed off on a set of new stainless-steel appliances — including a Frigidaire stove and refrigerator — for its board secretary, Elizabeth Koffer, and another board member, Mary Tillman, according to a pair of purchase order forms dated Feb. 12, 2016.

The appliances were ordered through the Long Island City-based Polar Distributors, Inc., from which the board also purchased items for the complex's management office, according to the order forms. 

The price of the appliances paid by the co-op was not included on the paperwork. But the items included "FFGF3053 L/S," which appears to be the code for a Frigidaire 30-inch stainless gas stove that sells for $850 on Frigidaire's website, "FFHT1821 L/S," which appears to be the code for a Frigidaire stainless fridge that retails for $729, and "FFMV164 L/S," an over-the-range microwave on sale for $309 on Frigidaire's website.

Polar Distributors declined repeated requests for comment.

Co-op board president Jennifer Grady told DNAinfo that the cost of the appliances were paid back in full to the co-op in installments that were added to the residents' monthly maintenance payments — which she explained is part of a "chargeback" policy that has long been available to all residents.

“There is a standing resolution after the renovation of the community rooms that Dayton Beach Park shareholders were allowed to purchase kitchens countertops and appliances as a chargeback item on their maintenance, payable in six installments," she said.

Grady declined to discuss how many other residents had participated in the chargeback program.

Reached by email, Koffer said she paid for the appliances in full, and didn't owe any money.

She also said the allegations against her were being led by critics of the board, who she said have attacked her personally because of their own legal battles with the co-op.

"[T]he story isn't about Board Members getting free appliances or any other accusations that the DOI has investigated," Koffer wrote. "Facts are facts but when one side is allowed to throw out all with no facts I just feel THE REAL STORY is not the story being reported."

Reached by phone, Tillman said, "Let me just stop you shortly here — I don't owe Dayton Beach Park anything. I pay my rent on time... If I got appliances, I don't owe for the appliances."

Board officials would not release a copy of the resolution that allows shareholders to obtain appliances, or a copy of the board's bylaws. 

But residents in the building said they were not aware of the availability of new appliances that could be paid back in installments.

"The ability to buy appliances through the management office was not distributed to shareholders, and if they told you they did they are lying," a resident, who asked that her name not be used for fear of retribution, told DNAinfo.

Dayton Beach Park is currently being probed by the Department of Investigation, which sent investigators to the complex days before Thanksgiving. Sources said the investigation is centered around allegations of empty apartments and claims of mismanagement from the co-op board. 

The investigation was confirmed by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, which supervises the complex through the Mitchell-Lama affordable housing program.

HPD did not respond to multiple requests for comment about city policy on a chargeback program.

A spokeswoman from DOI declined to comment as is their policy on open investigations.