Friday, December 31, 2010

Webb County Woes

Losing millions



State ends county's weatherization program

By Nick Georgiou
Laredo Morning Times
Published: Friday, December 31, 2010 4:41 AM CST
Webb County stands to lose a $2.4 million contract after a recent state report revealed pervasive, systematic abuse, fraud and misuse of weatherization funds and services by county employees.

Not a good way for the county to end the year.  Nick Georgiou went on to detail some findings by investigators:


  •  CAA’s monthly reporting figures on the number of weatherized homes contained information that was not factual: CAA reported that it had weatherized 91 units, or households, as of September 2010. In fact, only 18 percent of the units were actually complete.
  •  A lack of internal controls to prevent conflict of interest/nepotism: TDHCA officials interviewed one subcontractor, Marion Services LCC, that told them that he weatherized his father’s own home. The subcontractor told them that he did not see the assignment as a conflict of interest.
  •  A lack of appropriate hiring standards: The hiring of a CAA program manager showed that the best qualified candidate was not hired. The hired employee’s performance was substandard and led to the approval of weatherization activities for non-eligible county employees.
  •  Failure to prioritize weatherization applicants: CAA staff was supposed to assist applicants in the order of the date they applied. But a review of client files showed that at least five county employees were bumped up the list, receiving assistance ahead of low-income applicants.
  •  Severe lack of internal controls: CAA employees assessed their own homes, approved work releases for their own homes, approved purchase orders, concealed their own client file at their home, concealed applications in their office and altered applications to qualify applicants for services, leading to ineligible applicants receiving services.
Not very flattering.  Surely this story will continue into the upcoming year as somebody will be held to account for the lack of oversight. 
Meg Guerra quoted a former county employee in this month's issue of LareDOS:
One was a trailer at 301 International at the Town North Trailer Park.  It had no windows, and there was a huge hole in the floor.  The blower reading we got for that house was the same as if you were outdoors.  It should never have been weatherized, and yet we were ordered to proceed and to spend thousands of dollars that could have been spent making the home of an elderly person more energy efficient," he said, adding, "The house went over the $6,500 TDHCA limit, but Mr. Martinez said he would leverage LIHEAP funds of $4,000 to finish the job.  The contractor was Laredo Accurate Inspections, Charlie San Miguel."
(Emphasis mine)
Is this contractor the same person who just won a seat on city council?  I've been following this story casually but the more details that come out, the more I'm enthralled.  What I want to find out is how Mr. Javier Martinez came to the position of Director of the CAA.  Surely the commissioners court had something to do with it but nobody's coming forward with any information on just how this all transpired.

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