Dispute over reimbursement for work related to Tonawnada Coke study


The University at Buffalo is sharing more details on expense reports submitted by a local evironmental group in connection with Tonawanda Coke community service payments.

In 2014, a federal judge ordered now-closed Tonawanda Coke to spend about $12 million funding two studies to be conducted by U.B. One of the studies focuses on the soil around the plant.

U.B. contracted with Citizen Science Community Resources to help them do some of the work. Now, CSCR say the university is not reimbursing them for $25,000 in expenses.

On Wednesday, U.B. said that’s because some of the expenses are outside the scope of the project.

“(The Research Foundation) has notified CSCR that these expenses cannot be paid as they are outside the terms of the contract.”

Joe Gardella, the soil study’s leader, later expanded on that.

“Examples of non-project expenses include the preparation of soil sample kits for a study CSCR independently decided to undertake that fell outside the scope of the court-ordered study, as well as a proposed advocacy video that is not appropriate for an objective scientific study,” Gardella said.

He added, “Many of the expenses that were not reimbursed relate to hours claimed for work on vaguely described activities, without deliverables and without sufficient documentation such as timesheets or other record-keeping by CSCR to describe the work. CSCR’s failure to carry out its community outreach duties has resulted in these duties being shifted to other members of the study team.”

CSCR board president Phil Haberstro responded to that Friday.

“I don’t dispute it in a sense that that’s their opinion,” Haberstro said. “This may come down to the judge’s intent and interpretation of it. What did he want to see happen?”

Habestro and elected officials in Grand Island and Tonawanda have expressed concern over the control of Tonawanda Coke’s community service money.

“The community lost control of this process of investment that was intended to benefit it,” said Haberstro.

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