At no time during the City Council meeting or via any material submitted by myself was there ever any accusation that fraud would be found in the audit. However, despite a conversation with the administration that the audit would not be politicized, they immediately held a press conference stating that “No Fraud Found.”
I challenge anyone to listen to the meeting, read the item, and point out where any accusation of fraud was made. It wasn’t. The only mention of fraud was brought forward by the City Manager in an effort to deflect from the embarrassing comments made when the audit was requested.
As you will read below, what was said at the July 21, 2015 meeting, differs substantially from what the audit found.
* Disclaimer, I am not a transcriptionist and, to be fair to myself, it was difficult to follow the rambling language employed. Further, I have not quoted any members of the public or the embarrassingly inflammatory statements made by them.
July 21, 2015 – The Agenda item read as follows:
Item 12(g) - Request an audit of the grants and other monies received by the Mosaic Cultural Complex and all documentation relative to the services the Mosaic Cultural Complex provides, to include, but not limited to documentation of the services that are supposed to be provided pursuant to the grant from the Prevention and Wellness Trust Fund for the past five years. Said audit to include a review of the Mosaic Cultural Complex’s legal status as a non-profit or otherwise. And said documentation to include the lease information for the city property being occupied by the Mosaic Cultural Complex.
The Amended item provided for a review of the grant from the Prevention and Wellness Trust Fund for all participants.
The Amended item was voted forward 11-0.
Statements concerning the Agenda item and predictions as to the outcome of the item:
174.47: Michael Gaffney – “Best interests of the City and Mosaic to simply clear up this issue. I will leave the determination with regards to any issues . . . to the auditor. I think it fosters transparency in our government.”
180.21 – City Manager says he sat down with his administration, says “quite frankly I’m satisfied from a city prospective that they city has done everything that this council would expect us to do in order to preserve the integrity of any public dollars that we are responsible for . . . when there are paperwork requests or status reports to be made, as I have looked at this with the City team, we did that, the City did ask for that, when it wasn’t in place, they asked for it . . . all of that being said, my suggestion to the council would be if that there are any questions about the City’s responsibility they should just relate it to the wellness trust fund grant. That we take a look at any get all of it . . . the whole trust fund grant. . . I am confident that the City has done all the things that we would expect our City government to do to make sure the integrity of this process was in place . . . .”
The audit found that the City did not comply with timely reporting, that the City did not execute the necessary contracts as per Worcester Magazine “One of them focused on subcontracts with the organizations that were not executed before work started. Agreements with the organizations were executed during the implementation phase of the grant. Their work started Oct. 1, 2014. Ten of the contracts were executed between February and May this year.”
182.21 – Mayor Petty “When the Willis Center closed . . . very sensitive issue . . . idea of representing the community of color, representing the African American community, so when that closed, hurt a lot of people in this community, a lot of people, and I’m not sure of the relationship with the Mosaic and Willis Center, not sure if one exists or not, maybe it does, I don’t know, but now we have one African American community again that is where the sensitivity is from, not because we are going to do an audit . . . I want people to realize where some people are coming from in this community.”
Apparently it is okay to call a City Councilor a bigot and racist if the issue is “sensitive.”
182.02 – Sarai Rivera claims we do a great job monitoring grants, “it is interesting that we are questioning that a small organization is pulling the wool over the administration’s eyes, it is a little bit insulting. We are good at being a transparent city, but we are going to do one, let’s do all that are under the same grant. We are going to be utilizing taxpayer dollars, because I think there is a whole department, there is a whole section, compliance, and I know the work that has been done and the work for the different non-profits in the city.”
As Worcester Magazine reported “the agency, which under terms of the grant was required to provide six courses, did not in fact meet that requirement. Mosaic was expected, in its first year under the grant, to offer six courses. As of June, however there were ‘very few referrals’ for the program, although the pilot program was implemented that month. The agreement required the courses to be completed by Aug. 31, the end of the contract period. The course generally requires 10 participants, and there is a lack of signups, according to the audit. State agents, the audit said, indicated there is ‘great difficulty’ in attracting the appropriate number of referred patients for both the senior falls and hypertension programs.”
190.40 Councilor Lukes “nothing to fear if our professionals are doing their jobs. . .” Calls for the audit and calls for a program in place to strictly monitor agencies we give money to. Also calls for a report on the liability from failing to audit agencies. Look at all entities.
192.12 – Rushton “Former member of board at Mosaic. The concerning part of the request is that it is not an audit, the basis of the request because the basis is very explainable in terms of, it is not grounded in much, in my opinion . . . It was mentioned earlier that there was concerns about monies being distributed, sending out checks to entities that have been resolved, asks the Manager, any monies distributed when dissolved? Ed says does it as a matter of course, quick review is that this organization was in that status, the City did not cut any checks, they were notified, they got into the appropriate status, they proceed forward.”
He was pleased that the city was double checking, doing our due diligence, our oversight, holding folks accountable again, not expending any public dollars until the entity was in the proper compliance.
Rushton to Augustus: “Bills that were paid by the city were checked to see that the services were provided, right?”
Augustus to Rushton: The normal oversight, quite frankly, lots of back and forth, protections in place for our public dollars. Quite frankly, the state was saying get this money our quicker, but the city had additional safe guards in place, but Worcester having learned some important lessons, had put in place some protections and additional oversights.
[Augustus - Admits that property was not properly leased and that the city wasn’t tracking use of its property, the lease expired 20 years ago but not part of the grant issue. Apparently, they just moved in and it is okay.]
“The problem here is that I have been on the Council for 12 years, a recurring issue during the first term of this councilor, instead of picking up the phone and trying to find out if there is a solution, just put it on the floor and let the bombs go away, it is clear that attorney [omitted] his was never a not for profit, but not a 501c [so they shouldn’t have been awarded the grant?] And, and, and in my experience, and it is only his second year. . . a lot of fiscal agents are put in place, common place to use as a conduit to have the independent contractor provide the services. . . “
The problem is the grant forbids subcontracting. As per Worcester Magazine “In addition, Mosaic failed to notify the city its staff was employed by a separate organization acting as its fiscal agent: Covenant United Methodist Church. Under the contract to provide work through the grant, Mosaic was required to obtain approval from the city before assigning any work. Outsourcing payroll with the church, Stearns said, would fall under that category.”
Rushton continues “. . . And, so these aren’t great mysteries, and the problem ishe did not understand the sensitivity of bringing this issue up without any firm, solid evidence, and failure to ask basic questions, and that’s the problem the idea that you could include as part of the audit. ‘I want to make sure these services were actually provided, I have zero evidence that they weren’t, but I want, I want an audit of something that I don’t know’ and that’s disturbing because you can if you employ that standard that I want an audit of something that I have no proof that it wasn’t delivered then, you walk around in a very paranoid world and frankly that’s not what we should do inside the council chamber or outside the council chamber, we heard tonight about the services provided by the Mosaic and her testimony through the letter we received, who talk about how this is the cutting edge way of tackling health issues, by providing a strong delivery of services by the Mosaic and they are providing a great benefit to the city, so not only after hearing directly from a top medical/research scientist at UMass, who is overseeing the actual program and who has verified that there has been a delivery of service, there was a statement about well, we want to check that the services were delivered. So that is the problem, and going forward, you throw out the terms of transparency and trying to get to the bottom of things, that is, those are dangerous words when they are misused. You ask for transparency when you actually have some substance to go forward on what you are asking for, not just because you are going on a fishing expedition because you may have an agenda, and it has been clear that over the course of this term that there are certain people on this council that are not friends of public health and they do not understand public health and how the delivery of service are actually occurring at the community level and I hope that long after I am off this council, that maybe, there is an education, a willingness to listen, a willingness to learn about public health and how it is being delivered, here in the City of Worcester and why the City of Worcester is being recognized for what it is doing to try to make a community healthier despite the fact that in 2008 it was decimated by budget cuts, so out of the ashes have arisen a great delivery of services. I will support the City Manager tonight on his request to do it as an umbrella, but not because there is any substance here. The damage has been done, by raising the specter and making it seem like some impropriety has occurred so therefore to answer those questions where they should not actually be answered we’ll serve this community with this audit that the manager already told us he feels confident about, but that will not leave, that will not leave, this council without the moral compass to in its future to reject when people are going on fishing expeditions with no evidence.”
Moral compass? The audit found that Mosaic didn’t even pay its employees.
Per Worcester Magazine “According to the audit, the grant contract requires participating partners to pay its staff and submit related payroll registers to the city with reimbursement claims. State law, meanwhile, requires employers to pay employees six days after the end of the payroll period, usually weekly or biweekly. Mosaic, the audit found, had payroll expenses from Oct. 1, 2014 to Dec. 31, 2014, but did not submit a claim for reimbursement until May 12 this year. The claim was made without payroll registers. According to the audit, employees who worked during the October-December period last year were not paid until Sept. 23 this year.
Other councilors also spoke mainly about costs, who would be audited, etc., but none of them questioned the motivations of the audit or engaged in the political rhetoric of Councilor Rushton, Rivera or Mayor Petty, thus their comments are not material to this blog.
228.13 Petty “ok, this what we are going to do, I think however that it has come to a point that the City that something needs to come out from us to substantiate that they are doing everything correct so I think it is the point we do that, because right now people are going to walk away and if we vote this down without having a type of audit that people would think we are hiding something because it was put out there and I agree, I may be articulating this wrong but I just think we do all 11 organizations, do them fairly, look at the administration of the trust itself, and ah as amended only becauseit is important I think now what was said, which I don’t agree with, I think Mosaic does a lot of good stuff in the City . . . we don’t need to walk out of here thinking that other people are thinking that there is an issue there, because I don’t think there is an issue, the manager doesn’t think there is an issue, so let’s just come back and confirm that.”
In sum, the audit showed gross mismanagement by Mosaic and the City of Worcester. Those that spoke about my request for an audit claiming it would find nothing including the City Manager who claimed to be “satisfied” with Mosaic’s reporting were mistaken.
If I had not stood up against the cries of bigotry and racism, the audit would not have been completed. The Mosaic would continue to not pay its employees, subcontract, and not provide the services it was contracted to provide.
I thank all of you that stood beside me during this process.
I am far from done!