Now this shameful story from Louisville. State Auditor Crit Luallen released an audit last week of the Metro Department of Housing and Family Services and found gross mismanagement of city programs and millions of local and federal dollars used to fund them. It makes 43 findings and 58 recommendations to strengthen financial controls based on examination of fiscal year 2008 (http://www.louisvillecitizen.com/government.htm). This time, it was a Courier-Journal investigation that raised questions about thousands of dollars in assistance given to the mother of the department’s former director, Kimberly Bunton. Some of the money was taken from a children’s welfare fund. Bunton resigned last August. The article led to the audit.
Mayor Jerry Abramson, as usual, had all the right things to say. In a release, he said the agency already "has changed the department’s leadership; retrained, reassigned and replaced employees; strengthened procedures and polices to meet federal and state requirements; improved monitoring; and moved to protect federal funds from recapture. 'I was extremely disappointed by the extent of the problems we found,' Abramson said. “But I am very pleased with the progress our new team has made in the past six months. And I am committed to keep working until we make it right.'
But where was the mayor, metro council, and the city's auditors while the inappropriate activities were taking place? How can reporters uncover problems that we miss; problems we get paid to monitor and prevent but are right under our collective noses?
Just a small sampling of audit findings, according to The Courier-Journal:
- $363,000 lost because of mismanagement: a $104,000 reimbursement for a summer food program that was rejected by the Kentucky Department of Education, and a total of $259,000 overspent through an accounting error that had to be covered from the city's general fund.
- $348,000 in federal funds for a shelter program that were not spent because the department failed to bill allowable administrative costs to the grant. The city's general fund covered those costs.
- $369,600 in federal funds given to nonprofit agencies without proper oversight.
- A backlog of 400 homes in need of repair because federal money to pay for the projects was mismanaged.
- The use of grant money by Bunton for reducing poverty and revitalizing low-income communities to pay her personal cell-phone bill and bar association dues.
- Reliance by the city on a referral agency to place people on the verge of homelessness in apartments as part of its Tenant Based Rental Assistance program. The head of that agency referred clients -- some of whom had children -- to live in an apartment building that he owned and that also housed dozens of convicted sex offenders.
- Forcing employees to move furniture and perform other jobs not related to their official duties on nights and weekends without being paid, and using an employee under Bunton to move personal property from her office to her new home. (See http://www.courier-journal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2009902180380 for more.)