By William K. Alcorn
YOUNGSTOWN — The head of Mahoning/Youngstown Community Action Part-nership does not believe he has done anything wrong and said he would welcome a full investigation of the agency and himself.
“It would exonerate us,” said Richard A. Roller II, MYCAP executive director, during an interview Wednesday. Richard W. Atkinson, chairman of the agency’s trustee board, also participated in the interview.
Roller, who has been MYCAP’s director for about 10 years, said the release by the Ohio Department of Development of a special financial and program-review report before it was complete has damaged the local agency and his own reputation.
“I recognize the state’s right to look at our funds; and if anything is wrong, I’d be glad to fix it,” Roller said.
Roller and Atkinson said the state review began after MYCAP told ODOD on Sept. 29, 2009, that it was conducting an internal investigation about a supervisor who was alleged to have solicited loans from employees and vendors.
The employee and his staff were placed on paid administrative leave. When it was discovered that he had a criminal record that did not permit him to have a “position of public trust,” he was “permanently laid off.”
The state notified MYCAP on Oct. 9, 2009, that it planned its own investigation, based on unsolicited feedback regarding weatherization issues at the agency. ODOD representatives spent Oct. 26 and 27 at the local agency going over records.
“We told the state about our internal investigation, and now we’re being punished for doing what we are supposed to do,” Atkinson said.
“This is an outstanding agency, and Richard is an outstanding administrator,” said Atkinson, who, along with Roller, is in a quandary about what’s behind the investigation.
“As a board, if we made a mistake, we’ll correct it and put policies in place to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Atkinson said.
The upshot of the unsolicited feedback, which Roller said was supplied by the permanently laid-off MYCAP employee, is what ODOD calls issues and concerns in its report, and questioned costs of $15,101.
In its report, ODOD said it received information from a laid-off MYCAP worker that weatherization services were performed at Roller’s home by MYCAP employees.
Roller and Atkinson explained what occurred with the weatherization issue, something they said the state has not given them a chance to do in person.
Roller said another home, that of the laid-off employee, was to have been used for required weatherization-training purposes for assessors and work crews in 2006, but the offer of the home was withdrawn.
“We used the executive director’s home because it was available and convenient and the training had to be done quickly,” Atkinson said.
“Not a penny of agency money was used in my house at that time,” Roller said.
About a year later, weatherization materials were installed in his house, according to the state report.
Roller said the MYCAP weatherization employees did work on his home but not on company time. They were paid directly by him, not with MYCAP funds. He said he reimbursed MYCAP for all materials used.
Roller agrees with the state that $85.46 in vehicle expenses were not reimbursed to MYCAP. “They were overlooked and will be repaid,” he added.
The vehicle expenses were part of the $15,101 that ODOD questioned in its report.
Roller and Atkinson addressed the questioned expenses item by item. A total of $10,138 was paid to employees placed on paid administrative leave, as per board policy; $2,312 represents legal fees to determine the employment status of the laid-off supervisor and MYCAP’s response to the allegations made against the employee.
Roller said $975 in vendor payments were legitimate expenses approved by the board but that they need more documentation; $951 represent valid payments of employee wages for training; and $639 in miscellaneous per diem expenses noted by the state report were justified.
The ODOD report also raised concerns about several of Roller’s relatives working for the agency, including his brother, Jason, who is food-service manager.
Richard Roller said he “strictly adhered” to MYCAP’s nepotism policy, which says that agency employees cannot live in the same household. The policy is not geared toward family members specifically but toward people living in the same household, he said.
MYCAP has until Jan. 31 to respond to the state’s financial and program-review report.
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