Tuesday, March 06, 2001

CCY defends spending

But county won't reinstate contracts worth $5.4 million

By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Hamilton County officials with the Department of Human Services said Monday they stand by their decision to cancel $5.4 million in job training contracts with the Citizens' Committee on Youth (CCY).

        But CCY President Clar ence Williams countered that the county is unable to provide specifics about how his 43-year-old organization failed to meet its obligations.

        Mr. Williams said the contracts should be reinstated through at least April 30, so the 1,000 mostly young people in various CCY programs will continue to get the job training they need.

        CCY offers a variety of training programs for youths and adults. They have operated with city funding for decades, but last year began contracting with Hamilton County.

        The organization is being investigated by the county prosecutor's office after an audit found that it billed the county $156,000 for a program that cost just over $16,000 to operate.

        The audit also found that CCY officials billed the county for students who were absent from its “We Are The Future” program, which provides training in plumbing, carpentry and other trades.

        Mr. Williams acknowledged that CCY overbilled the county by asking for money for absent students but said CCY identified the problem and corrected it.

        The organization should simply be allowed to repay the money, he said.

        “The punishment doesn't fit the crime,” Mr. Williams said. “This does not rise to the level of terminating the contract. You've affected two functioning contracts when there were other remedies available.”

        Meanwhile, the county is trying to contact all 1,000 people in CCY programs to provide them job training in other ways. Only a few dozen have been contacted so far, said John Young, the county's director of welfare reform.

        Mr. Young said that, when it's all added together, CCY mismanaged $190,000.

        “These are very serious charges — they billed us for services that were never provided,” Mr. Young said. “These violations are unlike anything I've ever seen.”

        But the $159,000 billed for the Brown Sports Camp was appropriate because 269 children participated in the two-week camp, said Mr. Williams, who said the billing is spelled out in the contract.

        “These kids were fed lunches and had teachers and instructors,” Mr. Williams said. “There were over 800 people involved.”

        Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune said the county should consider reinstating the contracts, since there is no better plan in the works.

        “These are not just CCY's customers, they're our customers — they're people who live in this community,” Mr. Portune said. “There are a thousand people out there who are getting hurt, and the bottom line is that we don't have a good solution.”


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