The Four-County Community Services board of directors will meet tonight to review its plan of action in response to a recent audit by the state Department of Health and Human Services.
During last week’s meeting, the board terminated Executive Director Richard Greene, who was found in the Jan. 25 audit to have used a company-owned vehicle to tow his boat to fishing tournaments and to have concealed his marriage to Four-County fiscal director Annie Rothwell, among other allegations.
The DHHS audit investigated 18 allegations in total and found 15 to be substantiated, finding that the agency misspent nearly $75,000 during the 2012 fiscal year and that other monies appear to have been misspent since fiscal 2009.
Based in Laurinburg, Four-County administers 16 Head Start programs as well as housing and weatherization assistance in Scotland, Robeson, Hoke, Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus, and Pender counties.
Last week, the Four-County board’s team of three Raleigh attorneys presented a drafted response to the audit’s allegations and recommendations, which the board will review tonight.
The board will meet at 6 p.m. at the Bladen County courthouse in Elizabethtown to discuss the proposed changes to Four-County’s bylaws. The board is expected to vote on whether or not to submit them in time to meet the March 25 deadline suggested by DHHS.
The Four-County board may also review a deadline set by the DHHS Office of Economic Opportunity to repay $280,000 that was spent on unallowed employee raises and retirement bonuses. In 2010, the Office of Economic Opportunity, which administers Community Services Block Grant funds, performed a fiscal review of Four-County and found that over $300,000 of those program funds had been misspent on employee bonuses.
In July 2012, DHHS told Four-County to repay $292,000, which has yet to happen, The Fayetteville Observer reported last week.
According to board member John Alford of Laurinburg, Four-County recently reached a settlement with DHHS, and will repay $282,000 when DHHS sets a payment deadline.
“The problem with the raises was that any money for raises should have come after the program year had ended and we had met all of our legal obligations, and then up to a certain amount could be used for increases,” said Alford. “What has happened over the years is that consistently there was the same amount left over, enough for them to get high raises, and the argument was that we met our goals, but that the goals weren’t set high enough and we should have been serving more people. You shouldn’t have $200,000 left over every year.”