The state Auditor’s office has begun its own investigation of Four-County Community Services.
But the agency’s interim director asserted that the agency remains “strong programmatically.”
Interim Director Kim Clark confirmed that a new investigation is underway.
But Clark also said that, despite appearances of wrongdoing, Four-County has carried out its stated mission, helping to weatherize 3,500 homes and serve 4,960 families through Head Start in the last five years.
Four County receives some $21 million annually in federal and state grants to operate 16 Head Start systems, disburse Section 8 housing funds, and provide assistance with weatherization and appliance repair to low-income households.
“We have moved over 180 families out of poverty, saving taxpayer dollars because these people are now working and paying taxes,” said Clark.
On average, Four-County places 427 families in Section 8 housing annually, and a recent federal review of the agency’s Head Start programs found nothing amiss.
“Every Head Start program undergoes an in-depth U.S. Department of Health and Human Services review every three years,” said Clark. “This year was an unannounced review - they pulled out records and went out to our Head Start centers and watched our teachers interact with our children, and they found that the services that we’re providing to those children are quality services.”
Clark declined to discuss to talk about the new investigation in detail.
A spokesman with the state auditor’s office would not confirm the Four-County investigation or give a time frame as to its completion.
An earlier audit by the state Department of Health and Human Services found 18 allegations of various mismanagement and misspending of funds, 15 of which were found to be substantiated.
“Of the 15 allegations that were substantiated, 10 are of such a serious concern that management should refer these allegations to the NC Office of the State Auditor and/or other funding agencies for further review,” the audit said.
Several of those allegations involved former executive director Richard Greene, who served in that position for 25 years before being fired in a special board meeting last week.
The 10 allegations directed to the State Auditor include Greene’s personal use of an agency vehicle, unauthorized payment of $13,885 for an employee’s university tuition, possible overpayment to Greene’s retirement account since 2009, and $13,000 paid to Sandy Grove Baptist Church in Lumberton for multimedia equipment apparently unrelated to the Head Start program Four-County runs there.
The board of directors for Four-County Community Services met in Elizabethtown on Tuesday to discuss recommendations made in the Jan. 25 audit report.
After two hours of discussion with Raleigh attorney Melanie Dubis of Parker, Poe, Adams, and Bernstein, the board voted to adopt bylaw amendments, implement new administrative procedures, and amend its financial management manual as prescribed by DHHS.
Four-County is based in Laurinburg and serves Scotland, Robeson, Hoke, Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus, and Pender counties.