YMCA may have to repay Manatee County more than $186,000

skennedy@bradenton.comJuly 13, 2014 

Sean Allison, president and chief executive officer at the Manatee YMCA, speaking with reporters Thursday. SARA KENNEDY/skennedy@bradenton.com

MANATEE -- Faced with a critical audit released last week, Manatee Family YMCA officials have promised to pay back whatever they owe to Manatee County, which could add up to more than $186,000, according to numbers tallied from the audit document.

Auditors contend Y employees falsified documents, supplied incorrect billing numbers and failed to accurately document programs funded with county money from 2011 through 2014.

When asked how much a repayment to the county might entail, YMCA officials said they have no idea.

But numbers in the report, issued by the office of R.B. "Chips" Shore, Manatee County clerk of the circuit court and comptroller,

show a widening potential scope.

Auditors listed an amount of $102,422.79 representing units of service for 2011-12 reported by the YMCA that were either inaccurate or could not be verified with supporting documentation.

In 2012-13, another $72,833.22 similarly could not be verified.

And during only two months of 2013-14, $11,184 in funding for a Gang Prevention Program lacked proper documentation, the report said.

The total comes to $186,440.01.

Asked Friday how much the YMCA may have to repay, YMCA Board Chairman Joseph Brannon said: "As promised, we'll have a full and final answer to that question, and we'll report directly to the public once our outside accounting firm is finished.

"To speculate now is irresponsible," he said.

"The county audit listed 'potential overpayments' after more than a year of reviewing paperwork spanning parts of four different years. We are getting help from outside experts to go back over everything, and our time frame is a function of the time they need to do a complete and thorough job.

"Doing this right is more important to the YMCA, and to the people of Manatee County, than rushing to conclusions no one can validate," he said.

When Manatee County Administrator Ed Hunzeker and Deputy Administrator Karen Windon announced the audit results the morning of July 3, they said the YMCA had defrauded taxpayers of more than $100,000.

Asked about that number on Friday, Windon said, "We had not seen that audit yet, it hadn't been released, so we were using numbers that were sort of 'order of magnitude' as opposed to actual dollar amounts. It was based on a general discussion."

Shore said the word "fraud" was not referenced in the findings contained in his office's investigation report. But complaints about the YMCA regarding falsified information were substantiated.

"We perform audits and investigations, and when appropriate, make referrals to law enforcement," he said.

Shore has referred the YMCA case to the Manatee County Sheriff's Office for investigation.

The audit concluded that, based on its review of documentation obtained from and interviews with Manatee YMCA staff, the nonprofit had falsified information to support funding it received from Manatee County.

Other findings of the audit include:

• Incorrect numbers were reported for the monthly billing for a gang prevention program, which was supposed to take place in schools; but the county was billed for days when schools were not in session. One of the YMCA officials implicated is Pastor Jerry Parrish, who leads the Y's much-publicized anti-gang programs at Pride Park.

• The Y reported incorrect numbers in monthly billings for another program, 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 Good Friday.

• Staff members employed by Manatee County failed to adequately monitor the YMCA programs, the audit found. County officials said that two employees, Mike Neuges and Tameka Burch Moore, would be fired in connection with the audit findings.

The YMCA has been receiving funding from county tax proceeds for more than 20 years, according to a discussion included in the audit.

In 2013-14, the county approved $366,907 in funding for the YMCA, the audit report said.

County officials pay for "extras" for the county's children through a variety of programs, including those at the Y, with money generated from a special tax, called the Children's Services Tax.

In 2013, the tax raised $7,760,719.86 for children's enrichment programs, according to Jan Hilker, executive assistant to Manatee County Tax Collector Ken Burton Jr.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.

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