The Education and Assistance Corp. failed to staff and properly oversee those it placed in community service programs as an alternative to jail, according to an audit by Suffolk County Comptroller John Kennedy.
The audit, which covers the two-year period that ended June 30, 2014, said the agency “did not fulfill ... minimum staffing requirements” for the pre-plea or post-plea community service programs it ran for the county.
Education and Assistance Corp. “failed to hire a field supervisor for either program, hired only a portion of the required case managers and hired a regional director that in our opinion was unable to provide adequate oversight.”
EAC, a Hempstead-based nonprofit that oversees 70 counseling and support programs in the metropolitan area, was chosen to run the community service programs after Suffolk ousted the American Red Cross in 2012 when irregularities were found. EAC took over programs for those 16 and older who can make reparations for their offenses through community services run by EAC, under the supervision of the probation and district attorney’s offices.
Kennedy said the lack of oversight was significant because in many cases “there was no documentation to ensure the sentences for community services were ever carried out.” The comptroller, however, said there was no need for the county to recoup funds because the agency never billed the county for personnel who weren’t hired.
The audit’s sampling of 10 pre-sentencing cases found that none of the participants contacted the agency in the time designated under the contract, nor did the agency reach out to them. The audit also found that 80 percent of those sampled were not screened within two weeks of their referrals, and 40 percent of post-plea participants and 20 percent of conditional release participants were not placed at worksites within two weeks as required by the contract.
Tania Peterson Chandler, EAC’s vice president of operations, said staffing problems arose because the programs had far fewer participants than expected when the contract was signed. For instance, she said the pre-plea program was projected to have 500 to 5,000 participants annually, but the number was only 1,500 a year.
The agency spoke to county officials about using less staff to avoid losing money, but “we were never told we should amend the contract,” Peterson Chandler said.
She said she will start talks to rectify the situation, and that the agency has taken steps to change procedures to assure that participants make contact with the program and move to worksites more quickly.
Peterson Chandler said part of the problem is that participants thought they had a year to respond and education efforts have been put in place to make the time limits clear.