Sunday, August 18, 2013

Bruno's daughter, SUNY RF exec sued by state for 'no-show' job

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has filed a lawsuit against the former president of the Research Foundation of the State University of New York and the daughter of a former Senate majority leader who have allegedly field 47 false time sheets, costing the state upwards of $165,000.

The complaint claims that John O'Connor not only allowed Susan Bruno — daughter of former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno — to file false time sheets heavily embellishing the number of hours she worked, but personally certified a great majority of them.

Bruno was hired by the Research Foundation in May of 2003 where she was given the position of "Assistant Director, Foundation Relations for Legislation," a position that had not existed before Bruno's hiring, nor was the job opening ever publicly advertised, a common practice of the Research Foundation.

When Bruno was hired, she was classified as an "exempt employee," meaning she was required by the Research Foundation to file monthly exception reports (time sheets). These time sheets were to be certified by both the employee and their direct supervisor. However, after her first supervisor, Matthew Behrmann, refused to authorize her time sheets, Bruno emailed O'Connor saying "From now on, if you don't mind, I would prefer to report to you." In April of 2004, Bruno was given the new title of "Special Assistant to the President," making O'Connor her direct supervisor.

Between 2005 and 2008, O'Connor directly emailed Bruno just 50 times, despite being solely responsible for the direct oversight of Bruno's daily activities. O'Connor also claimed that Bruno created her own flexible schedule and spent less time in the office than any other Research Foundation employee.

From January 2005 to November 2008, Bruno filed 47 time sheets, all of which were approved by O'Connor with the knowledge of them being fraudulent, according to Schneiderman. Bruno would email O'Connor's secretary Mary Ann Diamond regarding her attendance and Diamond would enter the data onto Bruno's time sheets in preparation for her signature.

Over the course of the 47-month period, Bruno falsely reported over 4,082 hours in which she was not in her office or doing any work related to the Research Foundation, according to Schneiderman. According to email communications, certain hours falsely accounted for were hours that Bruno spent doing a multitude of things from "driving out to Cornell University with a friend and his wife for the day," to the multiple trips made with her father's staff and the days spent at Saratoga racetrack with friends.

Bruno also spent time she should have been working "re-organizing" her parents' bedroom, attending non work-related "alcoholism seminars," cleaning her house or waiting for the veterinarian to take care of the family's horse. On May 25, 2005, Bruno decided not to come into the office, stating that she "will be at the Senate Chamber today, entertaining a few people!"

The lawsuit seeks to recoup three times the almost $164,952 the state lost in wages paid to Bruno, along with a $12,000 civil penalty for each of the 47 falsely filed time sheets, pushing the total suit past $1 million. The Attorney General's Office did not respond to an inquiry regarding the future hearing dates of the suit.

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