WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING - No Outrage Over $20 Million Transfer, Shades Of Bob Graham

(03/08/2010)

By Bob Weaver OPINION/COMMENT

It's shades of Bob Graham, the Wyoming County senior center director who made several hundred thousand dollars salary more than his contemporaries around the Mountain State, and was slick in using taxpayer money to leverage money, allegedly to his own benefit

Moving taxpayer millions around by the state's non-profit bureaucrats is pretty common.

Politicians called for Graham's head, but they've since learned that under WV Code, which they have written, most of his shenanigans are not illegal, and the State Ethics Commission frequently declares them quite ethical.

A recent example, Pete Radakovich, the CEO of Northwood Health System, charged by the state to provide mental health services to the greater Wheeling area, transferred $20 million to a private Catholic run charity, with the approval of his official board.

The agency is in hot water, its license suspended following a number of client deaths and dozens of reports of inferior care. The state is allowing the agency to operate.

West Virginia officials have been mute about the $20 million transfer, likely because it's legal for private non-profits to do whatever with state taxpayer money after they receive it.

The watch-dog press has barely reported on the Radakovich situation.

Radakovich did retire, while his board is threatening to sue the state over what they claim is threats made to them by Gov. Joe Manchin over funding.

CEO Radakovich, for several years, has been paid nearly $500,000, while the next highest paid mental health center CEO in WV makes $104,000.

The non-profit Northwood, using Radakovich's corporate business model, has managed to make millions in profits every year, and the profits aren't going to provide patient service, hire more Northwood employees or raise ground-level employee salaries.

Mental health advocacy groups say they are troubled that Northwood can put millions into a foundation, but is still under-staffing its crisis stabilization unit.

The Christian Behavioral Health Foundation has almost $35 million in assets, of which almost $32 million is cash and cash equivalents, according to its 2008 financial statement.

The Foundation says it is not a "related organization" to Northwood, according to a letter from lawyer James W. Thomas to the Health Care Authority.

But Northwood and the Behavioral Health Foundation did have one thing in common - their CEO was Radakovich.

Radakovich has proclaimed Northwood a "world class provider," touting his corporate management skills through a public relations firm he hired.

"Simply put, Northwood has succeeded where others have failed," said a 2006 release from Northwood's PR firm, Charles Ryan and Associates.

In May 2006, the Chronicle of Philanthropy wrote a glowing article about Radakovich.

The article said he did this by cutting staff by one-quarter. He reduced vacation days and eliminated sick days entirely. He demanded staff see more clients and increased the workweek to 50-55 hours a week.

A state order now says that Northwood "conducts practices that jeopardize the health, safety, welfare and clinical treatment of consumers."

"BRING ME THE HEAD OF BOB GRAHAM"

Legislative outrage died quickly following the antics of Wyoming Senior Center Director Bob Graham.

In 2006, a federal judge pretty much let Graham off the hook, ruling against him on only one of 39 counts.

Graham was accused of abusing his position by paying himself about $450,000 annually.

The average for senior center managers in WV is about $42,000, although if the top two executives (Wyoming and Lincoln) are removed from the average, the salary base is about $35,000.

Graham was convicted on one count involving a sick leave payment of about $31,000, which was taken without his board's approval. He will be required to repay the money.

Graham had been accused of embezzling more than $350,000 from the center to fund his lavish lifestyle that included vacations, private nude dances and a personal tanning bed.

The WV Ethics Commission dropped their investigation against Senator Billy Wayne Bailey-D Wyoming for funneling nearly $500,000 to the Wyoming County senior citizens center where he is an employee.

US District Judge David Faber said that while Graham's actions may have been improper and unethical, they did not violate the law.

STATE OEO DIRECTOR RESIGNS

Rev. Ed Harper, who recently resigned as head of WV's office of Economic Opportunity, was known to give mini-sermons to bureaucrats.

Harper, the pastor of Huntington's Apostolic Life Cathedral, has been sued in federal court by a Cincinnati Ohio bank for $740,000 for non-payment of a loan to his church.

It has not been confirmed if Harper used his OEO position to obtain the loan, or if OEO money was partially used. The original loan was for about $900.000.

The bank claims the church filed fraudulent documents indicating the loan had been paid, allegedly filing a fraudulent mortgage release, saying the church had satisfied the loan.

Mark Shannon Manuel, who represented the church, called the allegations against Harper "frivolous."

"They're (the bank) just trying to slander the church, slander the pastors, and slander the elders." Manuel said.

"They'll have to answer to higher law than what happens in equity court," he continued.

Harper has a longtime relationship with WV politicians, including Gov. Joe Manchin. He was a minister at Robert Byrd's wife's funeral.

Harper started a "God and County" ministry for political leaders.

It happened, while you were sleeping.


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