By WILLIAM K. ALCORN
A state agency has designated the Mahoning/Youngstown Community Action Partnership as “high risk,” meaning that grant funds given to MYCAP are “vulnerable to fraud, waste and abuse.”
The harsh language is contained in a report by the Office of Community Services stemming from an Ohio Department of Development special financial and program review of the local agency conducted in 2009.
ODOD issued its preliminary review findings in January. The review primarily involved MYCAP’s Minority Contractor and Business Assistance Program and weatherization services.
The MYCAP board’s response in February to the department of development report produced OCS’s comments this month.
OCS and the Minority Business Enterprise Division are part of the Community Development Division of ODOD. OCS administers large federal block-grants, including the Home Energy Assistance Program, the Home Weatherization Assistance Program, and the Community Services Block Grant.
The “high risk” designation carries with it certain financial restrictions and controls related to grant funds administered by ODOD.
Also, MYCAP’s designation will be reported to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, from which come federal grants administered by the state.
ODOD initially investigated MYCAP for possible misuse of funds, nepotism, conflict of interest and a number of other issues, including weatherization work done at the home of Richard A. Roller II, executive director of MYCAP.
In its latest report, dated April 6, ODOD recommended that the MYCAP board seek counsel.
That is the first thing that the MYCAP Board’s executive committee plans to do, said Richard Atkinson, board chairman.
He said the executive committee met Monday to begin the process of hiring legal counsel and the full board will meet as soon at legal counsel is retained and decide what actions to take.
It is clear by comments from the board members contacted Monday night that they are taking the issue seriously.
“When we initially met with the department of development, we went to Columbus. That was enough for me to know they are serious,” said Jamael “Tito” Brown, MYCAP board vice chairman.
Brown said his concern is whether MYCAP’s reputation will suffer locally and at the state level.
“We must solve these problems and gain the trust of the community,” Brown said.
MYCAP is a nonprofit agency that administers 11 programs in Mahoning County to help the poor and disadvantaged.
At the end of the day, MYCAP is bigger than the director and the board, said DeMaine J. Kitchen, MYCAP board member.
“My fear is that the work and the legacy of MYCAP will be tainted. We will take whatever disciplinary actions are necessary and move on,” he said.
“On the local level, whatever discipline occurs has to come from the board. We have to consider if this agency is bigger than any individual. We are accountable to a whole lot of people, including the state, who want clarifications and answers,” Kitchen said.
A telephone call to Roller was not returned.
However, in January after the state preliminary report was made public, Roller said he welcomed a full investigation of the agency and himself. “It will exonerate us,” he said.
At the time Roller, who has been the agency’s director for about 10 years, said he recognized the state’s right to look at agency funds.
“If anything is wrong, I’d be glad to fix it,” Roller said.
According to ODOD’s report, conducted in October 2009, Roller’s residence was assessed for the home- weatherization program Dec. 2, 2006, and materials were installed in his home Nov. 23-24, 2007.
Among other things, the development department said Roller’s home was not eligible for such services based on his income.
Roller said the weatherization assessment at his home was a training exercise, and that he paid the employees directly and reimbursed the agency for materials used.
Youngstown/Mahoning County Community Action Partnership’s “high risk” designation carries with it financial restrictions and controls related to grant funds administered by the Ohio Department of Development to “increase the transparency of expenditures.” They include:
MYCAP must submit for ODOD review and approval revised budgets for current grant agreements no later than May 15.
Requests for grant funds must be accompanied by supporting documentation; and grant funds will be paid on a reimbursement basis only.
The MYCAP board will conduct a performance evaluation of Richard A. Roller II, executive director, within 30 days after receiving the ODOD report, dated April 6. A copy of the evaluation and any disciplinary measures must be provided to ODOD no later than 45 days after receiving the April 6 ODOD report.
Source: Ohio Department of Development