The director of a Laurinburg nonprofit misused federal money, hid his marriage to a subordinate and used state vehicles for fishing trips, according to state audit.
The Fayetteville Observer reported the findings on Wednesday of an audit by the state Department of Health and Human Services.
When reached Wednesday afternoon, an official with the Department of Health and Human Services, said that she was unsure how the Fayetteville newspaper got a copy of the audit, but did not refute the findings. The DHHS official declined to release the audit to The Exchange.
In the audit, Richard Greene, director of Four-County Community Services, is accused of allowing Four-County’s business partners to sponsor him in professional fishing tournaments, concealing his marriage to the agency’s fiscal manager in violation of nepotism rules, and using state vehicles and funds for personal use.
According to the Fayetteville Observer, the audit also accuses Jimmy Cummings, chairman of Four-County Community Services’ board of directors, of mismanagement. The agency’s board of directors is expected to meet Tuesday to review each of the 15 allegations in the audit.
“The Four-County Community Services board of directors takes these allegations very seriously and has already begun the process of reviewing the allegations to determine what action, if any, we should take in response,” Cummings said in a statement.
Four-County is based in Laurinburg and serves Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus, Hoke, Pender, Robeson and Scotland counties. It receives $21 million annually through state and federal grants to operate 16 Head Start facilities and administer weatherization assistance, appliance repair or replacement, and housing assistance funds.
The audit found that the Four-County misspent $75,000 during the 2012 fiscal year, with thousands more misspent since 2009, according to the Observer.
The audit found five vendors doing business with Four-County that also sponsor Greene as a professional fisherman, in violation of the agency’s conflict of interest policy that states that an employee “should neither solicit nor accept gratuities, favors or anything of monetary value… from contractors or vendors.”
The audit also supported the claim that Greene was married to Annie Rothwell, Four County’s fiscal manager, for nine years without the knowledge of the agency’s board of directors.
Rothwell’s and Greene’s salaries increased at a greater rate than any other employee’s in 2010. The audit noted that Greene’s salary increased from $106,182 to $123,219 from 2009 to 2010, a 16.1 percent increase.
Rothwell’s salary increased by 14.7 percent from $68,780 to $78,903 in the same period. The next highest pay increase was an 8 percent raise granted to Rothwell’s supervisor.
“We were not able to determine whether the FCCS board of directors approved Ms. Rothwell’s pay raise, as well as Mr. Greene’s pay and compensation adjustments,” the audit said.
The audit also found:
— A $10,000 yearly lease payment for a Chevrolet Suburban for Greene, which he used for professional and personal purposes, including towing his boat on frequent fishing trips. The audit found no documentation of board approval of Greene’s personal use of the vehicle.
— A $238 monthly payment for Greene’s two state-owned cellphones, for which he did not request permission or approval from the board.
— $40 monthly payments for Internet service at Greene and Rothwell’s home, which was not approved by the board.
— $212.43 for Cummings’ Kindle Fire.
$105 monthly payments for Cummings’ state-owned cellphone.
$13,885 in unauthorized tuition payments for an employee during fiscal years 2009 and 2011. According to the audit, employees should submit a scholarship application before being reimbursed, which did not happen in this case.
$15,600 paid to 42 board members for attending a meeting during fiscal 2012. Board members, according to Four-County bylaws, are ineligible for compensation.
$12,600 to resurface the parking lot and install video and sound equipment and televisions at Sandy Grove Baptist Church, where the agency rents a building for a Head Start program.
“There is sufficient evidence to document mismanagement or misuse of state or federal resources and that FCCS management failed to implement and enforce adequate internal controls over business processes,” the audit said. “Therefore, DHHS management should consider assessing FCCS as a high-risk agency until such time as the issues identified above have been appropriately resolved.”
According to the Observer, the audit has been turned over to the State Auditor’s office.
“Findings as reflected in the internal audit of Four-County Community Services are very concerning to the department,” DHHS spokesperson Julie Henry said in a statement. “We have referred the matter to the State Auditor’s Office and are currently considering the department’s options for response.”
Four-County and two of its employees are also facing sexual harassment lawsuit, filed in September by an attorney now representing eight of the agency’s housing assistance clients.