Thursday, March 01, 2001

County job training in doubt

Audit faults Citizens' Committee on Youth

By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        More than 1,000 people, mostly young, need new job training programs after Hamilton County canceled two projects with the Citizens' Committee on Youth worth $5.2 million.

        Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune wants to know what the county's Department of Human Services has planned for those people.

        The contracts were canceled after an audit found questionable record-keeping and expenses for CCY's We Are The Future program and a handful of other programs that expanded with county funding.

        Mr. Portune said he doesn't want to get in the middle of the audit debate, but said he is concerned about what will happen to people in the affected programs.

        “I'm concerned that the damage will be done while this audit runs its course,” Mr. Portune said. “I feel like we let you down.”

        Mr. Portune was speaking to about 50 people who came to Wednesday's commission meeting to speak in favor of CCY programs and urge the county to restore funding.

        Betty Warren, who has worked on and off for CCY for 30 years, said the county's funding of CCY was something “new and out of the box.” She said it was more than people living in the inner city have come to expect from their county government.

        “You know what you represent to us?” Ms. Warren asked the commissioners. “The welfare department and the jail. We need more from our county government.”

        County officials decided to enter into contracts with CCY for the first time last year. An influx in one-time welfare reform money made it possible.

        But a compliance audit performed earlier this year turned up several irregularities, including:

        • Student attendance sheets not tracking time.

        • CCY still billing the county for participants who did not attend classes.

        • Several participants in various programs found to be ineligible.

        The audit also found CCY overbilled the county for workers compensation expenses and supplies.

        Clarence Williams, president of CCY, said he wants an opportunity to respond to the audit, which is also being looked at by the county prosecutor's office.

        “I have a personnel problem, and I will deal with that,” Mr. Williams said. “Those issues were identified by my staff. Look at what's happening today. Those problems no longer exist.”

        Mr. Williams, who asked for an independent review by a federal agency, will get a chance Monday, at the county commissioners' staff meeting, to answer questions raised in the audit.

        John Young, the county welfare reform executive, said the plan is to contact each of the 100 people in CCY's We Are The Future program, which provided training in carpentry and other trades, and see if they will fit into a different county-run program.

        “We stand ready to assist anyone who has a need,” Mr. Williams said. “This was an expansion of services (at CCY), so we may not have affected all 1,000 people.”


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