Cuomo Condemns Compensation Abuse, Education Guru Defends It

Ellen Cooper, the $3.2-million-a-year head of Ellen Cooper Associates of Syosset, a Long Island education company, was criticized by Gov. Cuomo, who is pushing to curb runaway corner-office salaries at taxpayer-funded organizations.

The company provides home-based early intervention and preschool special education services to children. Cuomo singled out the CEO as a glaring example of the need to cap executive pay at service providers that get government money, writes Ken Lovett at the New York Daily News.

The budget presentation showed Cooper to be earning around $2.2 million in salary and fringe benefits and another $1 million in shareholder distribution in 2009, according to state officials.

The company, which operates under the name of Cooper Kids Therapy Associates, made $19 million in annual revenues in 2009. State, federal and county government funding made up 99% of that figure. And Cuomo wants these great payouts to stop.

Cuomo, during his budget unveiling, said:

"How do we justify this spending to the taxpayers of this state?

"It has to stop. It has to stop this year."

However, the Long Island education consultant insisted she's done nothing wrong, writes Kenneth Lovett, Mark Morales and Jonathan Lemire at the New York Daily News.

 "I adhere to all the rules and regulations of a for-profit provider," said Cooper.

"I don't like being targeted like that when most of the companies ran the same way.

"I do a good job (and) I work hard."

Although Cuomo did not mention Cooper by name, he used her company as an example of a firm profiting off state contracts. An executive order looking to challenge that has capped the amount of taxpayer dollars that can be spent on an executive's compensation to $199,000 – 75% of which must be used to provide services instead of funding administrative costs.

"We must make sure that taxpayers' dollars are always used efficiently and effectively to improve the lives of New Yorkers," Cuomo said.

The executive order "will prevent public funds from being diverted to excessive compensation and unnecessary administrative costs, and will ensure that taxpayer dollars are being used to help New Yorkers in need."

While Cooper backs the principle of the order, she denies that her company did anything wrong.

 "We run a very efficient business which is why we get a lot of referrals.

"If the governor is going to change the rules of the road," she said, "I will adhere to them."

01 26, 2012
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