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ACC to step in after eviction prevention program is suspended

ACC Commissioners on Tuesday voted to transfer the work of helping a group of renters facing eviction to the county’s Housing and Community Development department after county staff found financial irregularities from the nonprofit group running the county’s eviction prevention program.

County manager Blaine Williams told commissioners that helping the renters who had been approved to receive assistance would be a heavy lift for the county.

County staff say that the program’s concept is not “fiscally sustainable,” and that they can carry out the program’s existing obligations to a group of 19 tenants owing a total of $47,639.13. But, Williams said, the initial list of 19 renters may not be the full list, and that’s a troubling proposition for county officials.

"We can't take over this program. We don't have the staff capacity," Williams told commissioners. "This was meant to to kind of fill the gap for a certain group of people, and now we're learning there's more ... As we learn more, we'll come back to you and get further direction."

Athenian First Development Corporation, the nonprofit initially contracted to manage the program, began work in January of this year. As of last week, the county has paid AFDC about $919,000 of the $2.4 million contract.

In May, the county’s Housing and Community Development Department, the county agency tasked with overseeing AFDC’s administration of the eviction program, noticed “reporting inconsistencies” in AFDC’s bank accounts and asked the group to submit bank statements. County officials again requested bank statements four times in June, according to documents prepared by county staff. In late June, Housing and Community Development warned AFDC that the county would cut off payments to the group until the bank statements were provided. On July 5, AFDC complied.

A county review of the bank statements seemed to indicate some $24,000 in unreported spending from the program’s account. AFDC asserted that the spending was to pay one of the program’s contractors, but could not provide adequate documentation. Additional discrepancies were found in subsequent months. In September, county officials told AFDC that they were “disallowing” $37,895 in expenditures by the group because of a lack of documentation. County officials also criticized AFDC for laxness in invoicing and payroll.

On October 24, the Housing and Community Development Department suspended the eviction prevention program. Since then, AFDC has reimbursed the county for nearly $100,000.

Martin Matheny is WUGA's Program Director and a host and producer of our local news program 'Athens News Matters.' He started at WUGA in 2012 as a part-time classical music host and still hosts WUGA's longest-running local program 'Night Music' which is heard on WUGA and GPB Classical. He lives in Normaltown with his wife, Shaye and dog, Murphy.