D.A. OFFICE LOOKING INTO ALLEGATIONS AGAINST FORMER ACAP DIRECTOR; NEARLY ALL EMPLOYEES OUT OF WORK; STILL VOLUNTEERING
By Steven Tavares
Alameda County Board of Supervisors President Nate Miley accepted responsibility Tuesday for his part in the rapid collapse and dissolution of the community assistance program, known as ACAP.
“I accept responsibility for the lack of sufficient oversight,” said Miley at the board of supervisor chambers in Oakland “It could have kept ACAP alive.” Miley said the program’s problems revolved around “poor planning and unsustainable spending” and added, “Clearly the program’s reputation is ruined.”
More details describing ACAP’s dissension in less than a month from helping the county’s poor to near oblivion were disclosed by the supervisors and two current employees.
Felicia Moore-Jordan, who has been employed by ACAP for over two years, said the prevailing atmosphere at the non-profit was a constant fear of termination by executives for those who questioned aspects of the program. “Retribution came to those who complained,” said Moore-Jordan.
Another employee, Timothy Smith, told the board most working for the organization were “kept in the dark” about its inner-workings. He complained many still feel uninformed even after news of the program’s insolvency become public knowledge Feb. 18 when its 30 employees did not receive paychecks. “It was a consistent challenge to get things involving money,” said Smith of attempts to gain resources for his duties. Although 27 of the 30 employees were laid off March 4, many continue to volunteer their services to their clients. Smith, himself, said he works with over 160 poor and less fortunate South County residents.
Moore-Jordan says the turbulence left over the county’s poor after the APAC governing board’s decision last week to dissolve the 36-year-old organization could have lasting effects on public safety. “It’s a huge public safety concern,” she said, adding those troubling backgrounds who cannot find unemployment may well return to crime as a means to survive. “Their job may be robbing someone at the BART station.” One speaker, who said he was recently released from prison after 10 years, described his difficulty in finding a job after potential employers learn of his criminal history. “ACAP is a cushion for people like me,” he said.
How the organization, which procured and distributed over $3.5 million in state and federal dollars to local non-profits, failed is beginning to focus on the possible malfeasance of its former executive director Nanette Dillard and gathering anecdotal evidence nobody at the government oversight level was paying much attention to the agency.
“Ms. Dillard portrayed everything as fine,” said Moore-Jordan. At numerous ACAP governing board meetings featuring elected officials from the 12 member cities and county, she said Dillard painted a favorable portrait of the agency unrecognizable to the dysfunction she saw on a daily basis. “We sat and listened as she misrepresented the facts,” said Moore-Jordan. Once the meetings ended she says she was sometimes put in the uncomfortable position of refuting some of Dillard’s explanations privately to boardmembers. “It’s a mess and its always been a mess,” she said.
Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty says he has spoken to the District Attorney’s office about a criminal investigation into Dillard’s involvement allegedly bilking ACAP. Interim Executive Director Sam Tittelman said an assistant district attorney along with investigators interviewed a few employees March 3 at the agency’s Hayward offices, although they did not say what they were looking for, said Tittelman. Miley also announced the appointment of Haggerty as the county’s representative at ACAP, replacing himself. He cited a need for an “overall sense of transparency.” Miley will now be the ACAP alternate.
Scorn was also directed at a few current governing boardmembers. Moore-Jordan singled out Miley and San Leandro Councilwoman Diana Souza for a lack of accountability. When Souza was asked by Moore-Jordan how the board and ACAP would proceed in the future, she said the responsibility lay with Tittelman, according to Moore-Jordan. “I’m sure she’s well-meaning, but that’s the kind of lack of responsibility on this board,”Moore-Jordan said.
Although a few members of the ACAP governing board balked at paying equal shares off roughly $6,000 to repay the county’s $75,000 loan to pay its employees for February, Miley says there is a potential proposal by a group of city managers and city attorneys from each city to contribute $25,000 to bailout ACAP. The agency is currently over $400,000 in arrears to vendors. Most have not been paid since November, said Tittelman, and none will be compensated for bills from last year.
He said plans to pay vendors for services rendered this year are currently ongoing. According to TIttelman, the state cannot fulfill invoices dated for anytime last year. Tittelman, who is a county employee appointed to oversee ACAP after the dismissal of Dillard last month, may be relieved of his duties March 25, although some on the board of supervisors and local city officials believe his efforts are needed for a longer period of time.