BOSTON – A Lawrence-based non-profit agency, funded largely by federal government grants, has entered into a settlement agreement to resolve allegations that several of its employees, including its former executive director, were paid for work on federal grants that was never done.
Specifically, the Greater Lawrence Community Action Council (GLCAC) applied for, and received, grants from the United States Department of Education to pay a program director and a program case manager to work on a full-time basis. In reality, the GLCAC program director and program case manager were simultaneously holding down part-time, paid positions with the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, where they worked during normal GLCAC hours. In addition, GLCAC was responsible for claims to the Department of Education for the indirect costs of paying GLCAC’s facilities manager to work on a full-time basis, when in fact, during warm weather months, the facilities manager was golfing one or more afternoons per week during normal GLCAC working hours.
GLCAC also submitted, or caused to be submitted, claims to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for the costs of paying its former executive director’s salary for working on a full-time basis, when in fact the former executive director worked only approximately 50 percent of the time that GLCAC claimed.
In the settlement, GLCAC does not dispute the government’s allegations.
“Non-profit agencies perform important work in our communities, oftentimes using public monies. Agencies receiving taxpayers’ dollars are expected to have a sense of integrity and to utilize funds for the actual purposes for which they are intended," said United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz. "Federal grant funds have become increasingly competitive in this fiscal climate. Communities suffer when funds are used inappropriately to subsidize employee moonlighting or recreational activities.”
“I am proud of the work of OIG Special Agents and our law enforcement colleagues whose efforts led to today's action,” said Brian Hickey, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Education Office of Inspector General's Northeast Regional Office. “We will continue to work with our partners to protect the integrity of Federal education dollars.”
The total settlement amount is $80,282. GLCAC will receive a credit of $57,282 for amounts previously paid to the Department of Health and Human Services pursuant to an administrative audit finding.
Today’s settlement with GLCAC resolves a lawsuit filed by former GLCAC employee Ruth Tarbox under the qui tam, or whistleblower provisions, of the False Claims Act. Under the False Claims Act, private citizens can bring suit on behalf of the United States and share in any recovery. Ms. Tarbox will receive $11,500 as her share of the government’s recovery. The government commends Ms. Tarbox for bringing to light the allegations resolved in the settlement.
U.S. Attorney Ortiz and Brian Hickey, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Education, Office of Inspector General, Northeast Region, announced the resolution of this matter today. This matter was investigated by Ortiz’s Financial Litigation Unit and the Boston Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Education. It was handled by Assistant United States Attorney Gregg Shapiro of Ortiz’s Civil Division.
This case is docketed as United States ex rel. Tarbox v. Greater Lawrence Community Action Council, Inc., and Philip F. Laverriere, Sr., No. 11cv12334-DPW (D. Mass.).
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