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Jobs and Family Services agrees to control office



Published: Wed, November 10, 2004 @ 12:00 a.m.



The office had fallen behind in billing and was dark Monday and Tuesday.

By STEPHEN SIFF

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- The Trumbull County Department of Jobs and Family Services has agreed to take over as administrative agent for the financially troubled Senior Rights Advocacy office, which has been closed since Monday.

County commissioners are expected to vote today on a measure to put the seven-person office under the control of JFS until the end of the fiscal year in July.

By that time, JFS will have sorted out the office's administrative and financial problems and will be able to pass it off to be run by an independent nonprofit agency, said JFS director Tom Mahoney.

"This is something you can't just shut down," Mahoney said. "People depend on them."

Serve as guardians

Workers in the office are appointed by Probate Judge Thomas Swift to serve as guardians for the elderly, people in comas, and others who might not be able to make decisions for themselves. The office was dark Monday and Tuesday, though case workers have continued their work and kept appointments, Swift said.

Senior Rights Advocacy is federally funded through contracts with several local agencies, including JFS, Lifelines, the county board of mental retardation and developmental disabilities, and others.

The office, however, has fallen behind in billing, even though it is providing services, Mahoney said. He said JFS hadn't received a bill from Senior Rights Advocacy in months.

The agency would not have had enough cash to make the next payroll, but a check for services rendered was received Monday, Swift said.

He said JCS will provide expertise in handling billing.

Humane Society

For the past 20 years, the office worked under the umbrella of the Trumbull County Humane Society, though its books are kept by the county auditor's office and workers are considered county employees and enjoyed county health care and retirement benefits. But on Oct. 29, workers at the office were notified they would no longer be humane society officers.

The humane society never had much direct involvement in the office, which operated as a separate division, said humane society president John Leopardi. The humane society thought that JFS or some other county department would take over the office, he said.

"We were happy to create the division, we wanted the work done, but we didn't get any funding," he said. "I have enough to do without doing any extra things."

Workers perplexed

Co-executive director Wendy Walker-Bowers said workers had no idea what was going on. Employees were told by the county auditor's office Friday that their mileage checks were held up because the office's accounts were frozen, she said.

"We were told we don't exist," she said.

When the Senior Rights Advocacy office is reorganized, workers will cease being county employees, Mahoney said. Eventually they will become the employees of a private agency.

"We are just hoping that everything works out with the change so we can get back to work," Walker-Bowers said.

siff@vindy.com




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