Officials: Audit finds YMCA defrauded Manatee County of at least $100,000

Herald staff writersJuly 3, 2014 

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Pastor Jerry Parrish hands out free turkeys at the sixth annual Pride Park YMCA Turkey Giveaway where 550 turkeys and 1200 loaves or bags of bread were distributed to needy families on Thursday at Harllee Middle School. The event was sponsored by the Manatee County YMCA, The Source Church and the RiverLife Church. GRANT JEFFERIES/Bradenton Herald

GJEFFERIES@BRADENTON.COM Buy Photo

MANATEE — An audit has found that officials with the YMCA defrauded Manatee County taxpayers of at least $100,000 designated for after-school and gang preventions programs, county officials said Thursday.

County officials first received anonymous complaints about how the YMCA was billing the county in March 2013, and subsequently received more than a dozen more complaints, according to an audit report from Manatee County Clerk and Comptroller’s office.

“Based on our review of documentation obtained and interviews with Manatee YMCA staff, we conclude that the allegations that the Manatee YMCA submitted falsified information to support funding received from Manatee County have been substantiated,” the report states. “We further conclude that the Community Services Department staff assigned to administer and monitor the relevant funding agreements failed to adequately perform their duties.”

The audit found the following:

-- Falsified documents were given to auditors to support payments for the Y-Dash Harllee Middle School Program services. Student sign-in sheets provided for November 2013 for the site were exact duplicates of sign-in sheets also submitted as supporting documentation for the 2012-2013 South Branch program. Also, while the Y-Dash program did not begin until October 2013, Y-Dash sign-in sheets showed January 2013 dates, the audit found.

-- Incorrect numbers were reported for the monthly billing for a Gang Prevention program, which is specifically supposed to take place in schools; Manatee County was billed for days when schools were not in session. The county was also billed for services by specific coordinators whose YMCA timecards said they were not working those days.

-- The YMCA reported incorrect numbers in monthly billings for the School Age Child Care program. The county was billed for the before and after school program over Thanksgiving break, Christmas break, New Year’s Day, spring break and on Good Friday. The county was also billed for the program at non-school-day camp sites on the same days as on-school sites.

-- Community Services Department staff members failed to adequately monitor the YMCA programs, the audit found. No records reviews were conducted during the contract years tested by the audit to ensure the YMCA was maintaining proper documentation. In several instances, documentation supporting the existence of programs did not even exist, it said.

“It was negligence, they didn’t do what they needed to do; we were fraudulently billed, and they didn’t do enough to catch it,” said County Administrator Ed Hunzeker about the employees in question.

Sean Allison, the YMCA’s chief executive officer and president, was not immediately available for comment Thursday morning.

The report specifically found that Jerry Parrish, the gang outreach coordinator at the YMCA, inappropriately used funds. Parrish’s travel logs did not provide times or purposes of trips, and some entries seemed like personal trips, such as visits to restaurants and stores.

On April 7, 2012, the YMCA billed for a program day reporting eight hours for the program objective “provide effective prevention/intervention programs” and two hours provided for the program objective “expose gangs.” But Parrish’s mileage log indicated he attended a wedding, according to the audit.

As much as $175,000 in spending could be called into question, according to the report.

The audit found the YMCA was inappropriately and intentionally fraudulently billing the county, Hunzeker and Deputy County Administrator Karen Windon said during an interview with the Bradenton Herald on Thursday.

Rosters of participants in the programs were duplicated and dates changed in order to receive county funds, they said.

“You can see obvious evidence of whiting out the dates and using a different color ink to put the new date on there,” Windon said. “Or a January date that was made into a November date, or three dates that had the exact same sign in list.”

Manatee County provided funding of $97,733 to the YMCA for gang prevention programs and $290,000 for middle school programs in the 2013-14 fiscal year, said Windon.

The county is in the process of firing two of its employees, who will be put on administrative leave without pay for negligence in connection with the audit findings, Hunzeker said.

However, Hunzeker said he believed the fraud was intentional by officials at the YMCA.

“It would appear it runs the gamut from top to bottom at the YMCA organization,” said Hunzeker.

Later, Hunzeker expanded on his remarks in a prepared statement to acknowledge a failing by county government employees.

"The internal auditor’s findings raise serious concerns that we do not take lightly. While there are no signs of criminal wrongdoing on the part of county employees, there appears to have been an unacceptable lapse in accountability for the management of a contract the county holds with the YMCA of Manatee.

"Accountability is a core value of our organization. I expect all Manatee County employees to take seriously the public’s great trust in us to responsibly manage the taxpayer dollars that serve our community. Before the day is over, I will re-emphasize that point in a written message to all county employees," Hunzeker said.

County officials met with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office representatives Thursday to determine what needs to be done next, they said.

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