The Cincinnati-Hamilton County Community Action Agency and Department of Development are the focus of an FBI investigation, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. Federal stimulus funds designated for a weatherization program designed to aid poor families were allegedly grossly mismanaged.
Here are some facts about the ongoing investigation:
* An audit by the Department of Development confirms dozens of problems exist in the way the Cincinnati-Hamilton County Community Action Agency used federal stimulus funds, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. The local development office monitors the use of program fund. The Community Action Agency was ordered to repay more than $630,000 of taxpayers’ funds improperly spent last year.
* All of the problems cited pertain to the Home Weatherization Assistance Program. According to program guidelines, funds must be utilized to install efficient heating systems, windows and insulation. Only low-income homeowners qualify for the federal assistance. According to the audit, 71 of the 252 projects conducted were examples of improper spending.
* FBI agents raided the agency’s offices in Cincinnati five months ago, according to News5 WLWT. Bureau spokesman Mike Brooks confirmed the investigation is ongoing and no criminal charges have yet been filed, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.
* Meyer’s office announced the launch of a statewide investigation into how weatherization program funds were spent, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. Meyer noted state officials did not monitor spending by local department of development and community action agencies adequately. The alleged misuse of funds occurred during the administration of former Gov. Ted Strickland.
* According to the development department audit report contractors hired to perform weatherization tasks charged more than appropriate for tasks, did substandard work and did not adhere to health and safety concerns. The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that in one instance $14,000 was spent for weatherization of a vacant home. The audit also notes that work orders and invoices may have been falsified or altered. If proven, those who completed the paperwork could face criminal charges.
* Community Action Agency Board Chairman Mark Lawson stated in an interview with the Enquirer that the charges are false. Lawson agreed there were some paperwork mistakes made but not gross mismanagement. According to Lawson the agency spent $13.7 million on weatherization project during the two-year span being investigated. Currently no homes in Hamilton County are being weatherized because of a halt in agency access to program funds.
* Department of Development spokeswoman Katie Sabatino told the Enquirer the problems at the Community Action Agency in Cincinnati are the most severe violations of the weatherization program found in Ohio thus far.