A Scotland County commissioner may have been the spur behind a state probe of mismanagement at Four-County Community Services.
In an interview with The Laurinburg Exchange, John Alford, who also serves on the Four-County’s board, said an agency employee came to him about eight months ago with concerns about the Laurinburg-based nonprofit.
According to Alford, the employee presented more than a dozen separate allegations against Four-County and its director, Richard Greene, who was fired last week during a special board meeting. Alford did not name the employee.
“I asked this person if they had been to their boss or to the chairman of the board of directors about the issues and I was told they wouldn’t do anything about it,” Alford said. “I didn’t know how to interpret that.”
Alford said he then met with Greene and Jimmy Cummings, chair of Four-County’s board of directors, who told him that none of the allegations had been brought to their attention.
Feeling that the state was more qualified to investigate the claims, Alford directed the employee to the state Department of Health and Human Services.
“At that point, eight months ago, the board of directors members could not act because it hadn’t been substantiated and the board did not have the expertise to do its own internal investigation,” said Alford. “At the time they were just allegations, so I didn’t know what to expect. None of us knew what to expect until we got the findings back.”
A subsequent DHHS audit found 15 of the original allegations to be substantiated, including that the board spent $10,000 annually to lease an SUV for Greene, which he used to tow his boat to fishing competitions, that the board my have been overpaying into Greene’s retirement account for several years, and that Four-County paid $480 annually for internet service at Greene’s home and $2,856 annually for two cell phones for his personal use.
Overall, the audit found that Four-County misspent nearly $75,000 during the 2012 fiscal year and that other monies appear to have been misspent since fiscal 2009.
According to the audit, during the course of the DHHS investigation, which began in July 2012, Greene seemed preoccupied with finding out who the informant was.
“It is important to note that Richard Greene, FCCS executive director, was the focus of many of the allegations made,” the audit said. “During our review of the allegations, Mr. Greene repeatedly focused on who the whistleblower(s) might be, and speculated on which of his employees or board members might have known enough about the internal operations of his agency to make the allegations.”
Alford, who has been onn the Four-county board for four year, said that, due to the board’s size and structure, many members were unaware of any mismanagement at the agency.
“This board is comprised of members going back as far as 20 years ago,” he said. “The board is not experienced, as far as the 45 members, and they’re rotating on and off all the time, so the board as a whole is never aware of everything that is taking place.”
According to Alford, the board’s practice of leasing a vehicle for Greene’s unrestricted use spans the 25 years since he became executive director. He said that it would not continue when a new director is hired.
“The luxury vehicle in question, they have been doing that since 1980, but I had no knowledge of the vehicle situation because you don’t know to ask those kinds of things,” said Alford.
Four-County, a Laurinburg-based nonprofit, administers 16 Head Start programs as well as housing and weatherization assistance in Scotland, Robeson, Hoke, Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus, and Pender counties.