York City residents deserve a controller they can trust. Frost must resign

York Dispatch editorial board

York City residents deserve a controller they can trust.

This often overlooked elected office serves as the city's primary financial watchdog, safeguarding public money against waste, fraud and abuse. The controller also reviews contracts, issues financial reports and assists in audits.

AliceAnne Frost, by all recent indications, is not fit to carry out these responsibilities.

York City Controller AliceAnne Frost

It is time for her to resign.

Frost was appointed to the office by City Council in 2017 and elected to a full term in 2019. Her ascent to public office ran parallel to her rise up the ranks of a Harrisburg-based nonprofit, The Program, It's About Change.

The Program, founded in 1979, works to support individuals recently released from prison in order to prevent recidivism. Frost began as a volunteer, became the organization's chief financial officer in 2015 and became CEO the following year.

Frost's parallel tracks crossed 2020, when York City considered The Program for Community Development Block Grant funding. In a Jan. 17, 2021, letter to the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department, the city's assistant solicitor, Jason Sabol, sought an exception on Frost's behalf. Sabol declined to comment.

This was a case of an elected official signing off on $60,000 for the nonprofit she was leading and earning a $66,000-plus salary from — although city officials say Frost never directly received any public funds from the award. Frost also receives a $20,000 per year as the elected controller.


More:York City's elected controller signed off on public funding for her own nonprofit: Investigation

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More:York City mayor: Contracts with controller's nonprofit won't advance in current form

More:How did York City's elected controller get the OK to sign off on contracts for her nonprofit?

HUD concluded that there was a definite conflict of interest, but that the greater good would be served by granting an exception to Frost. That decision came with several conditions, including a requirement that Frost submit written assurances she would recuse herself from any CDBG matters related to The Program.

Frost said that documentation was submitted, although The York Dispatch hasn't been able to find it so far.

Late last year, the city awarded $45,000, to The Program that did not go before City Council because it fell below the threshold for such scrutiny.

In January, The Program was once again in line to receive public funding — this time $317,470, in federal COVID aid from the American Rescue Plan Act spread across two contracts.

The process undergirding the latest round of public money earmarked for The Program remains murky. Frost's name appears twice in documents related to the award that were reportedly reviewed by the solicitor's office. Mayor Michael Helfrich said no red flags were raised and, so, he signed off alongside Frost.

Shortly before the latest contracts were to go before City Council, they were pulled from consideration. The documents were deleted, but The York Dispatch recovered them by combing through the website's Google cache.

Frost, meanwhile, hadn't posted any city contracts to her official webpage for the years 2021 and 2022. They were added late last week, after The York Dispatch's investigation was published.

Public service is an important and righteous thing.

Many elected officials also serve on boards, and some, as staff members at charitable organizations.

Frost — whether she intended to or not — allowed a conflict of interest between her professional career and her responsibility as an elected fiscal watchdog to persist for years. Simply put, she should've recused herself from the process entirely.

In early March, prior to The York Dispatch's publication, Frost decided not to file for a second term.

From our vantage point, though, remaining in office for another nine months simply isn't tenable.

She should resign now. And, going forward, we must hold our elected officials to a higher standard.