(08/23/2007)
The executive director of floundering Community Resources, Inc. of Parkersburg, an 11-county poverty agency, has resigned.

Melanie Pagliaro, according to officials at the Governor's Office of Economic Opportunity, has been replaced by a temporary director.

State officials are "assessing the financial and programmatic conditions of the agency and hope to have a report for the board," according to Arlie Johnson with the Office of Economic Opportunity. Pagliaro resigned August 16th.

State officials did a draft audit of the organization in June (read earlier Herald stories) citing critical managerial and cash flow problems.

CRI was thrust into financial disarray a few years ago when the agencies funding stream was changed, after which Pagliaro said most of the 11-county offices would have to be closed.

Johnson said "We (state officials) are in the building now. We are assessing some things, talking with staff, funders and program directors. We want to find out the condition of the organization, ascertain the financial condition and programmatic condition of the organization. Once that is complete, a report will be filed with the board. We may make some recommendations. We want to see what is best for the organization."

A blistering audit listed 19 weaknesses in the management of the agency. The audit was published by the Herald.

It listed serious problems ranging from altered time sheets, illegal payment of travel expenses, inappropriate pay raises, incomplete employee file documentation, and missing personnel reports, among the 19 non-compliance items.

The OEO advised Pagliaro "There are serious findings that need to be addressed promptly."

The agency is also facing a $2 million lawsuit being brought by former employee Roger Longfellow, who operated the weatherization program.

Longfellow claims he was wrongfully terminated by Pagliaro after he discovered she was altering time sheets of CRI employees. Longfellow says he filed a complaint with Pagliaro, and she fired him. The suit claims such altering is in violation of West Virginia law. He is also asking for $50,000 in lost wages and benefits.

Pagliaro responded by saying "CRI complied with its policies and procedures at all times in the course of the relationship with all employees..."

Pagliaro told auditors she kept a "programmatic" file in her office, implying they were not part of the agencies record keeping. Those files were not made available to the auditor.

CRI HAS BIG MONEY PROBLEMS

CRI is facing critical financial problems, says the audit, a recent financial statement indicating the agency is $300,000 in the hole, with nearly $100,000 in unpaid invoices.

The audit noted the weatherization program completed about 33 of 79 scheduled jobs, overspending that budget by nearly $30,000.

Pagliaro, in a press release to the St. Marys Oracle, said the audit "makes us work better for our funders and our communities," saying "It's a learning tool for all of us."

Pagliaro declined to respond to three requests for public information in February by the Herald regarding the pay raises or changes being proposed by the agency.

She was reportedly angered that the announcement of the closures leaked to the public and published by the Herald, although CRI's board voted on the measure.

Pagliaro reportedly advised board members of the legal status of private non-profits like CRI, which are not open to the state's Sunshine Law.

CRI PROBLEMS HIT HOME

CRI announced the closure of most of their 11-county operations last January, but has since put the decision on hold or has been devising other plans to deliver service. Calhoun was on the closure list.

Pagliaro then announced a plan for closing the Grantsville office but still delivering "better services" to the county.

"The CRI board is looking closely at the problems," said Calhoun Commissioner Kevin Helmick, indicating the Calhoun Commission has been "disturbed about what has been happening."

At the time, Calhoun Commissioner Rick Sampson said "Often the neediest counties get cut from poverty programs. It never makes any sense to me."

The Little Kanawha Bus Company, a regional operation under CRI's umbrella, has been seeking to create its own transit authority in Calhoun, Roane and Jackson counties.

After Pagliaro met with the Calhoun Commission in support of letting the bus company move in a new direction, she led an effort to keep the bus company, which resulted in a decision not being made for one year.

The transit concept for the LK bus has been embraced by officials in those three counties, but the bus company still remains under CRI.

The Little Kanawha Bus has operated successfully for six years, program manager Darlene Harris told the Calhoun Commission, but the change could offer new opportunities for the service to provide public transportation.

Harris said the bus company is not eligible for several funding streams if it remains under the umbrella of a non-profit agency like Community Resources.

Transit authorities are exempt from federal and state gasoline taxes.

The Calhoun Commission decided to place three members on the transit board, stating that low-cost public transportation is an important service to rural Calhoun residents, particularly with the rising costs of gasoline.

The placement of board members required a $500 fee for each member. The transit board could have as few as five members nor more than 15. Members would serve three year staggered terms.

Funding for the proposed transit authority comes from state and federal funds, Medicaid and rider fees.

The future of the bus company and the transit authority is still undecided.


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