DHS Investigation Claims Top Administrators
James Toews and Cathy Cooper step down after program mismanagement revealed
March 18, 2011 -- The state’s top two administrators for the Division of Seniors and People with Disabilities have lost their jobs in connection with an investigation into a federal grant program that helped transition seniors from nursing homes to residential settings.
James Toews, assistant director and long-time employee at the Department of Human Services, was stripped of any management duties but will remain on staff as a policy advisor until after the legislative session. And Cathy Cooper, who’s worked at the agency for 31 years, will retire.
The news was delivered to state lawmakers this week from Erinn Kelley- Siel, acting director of DHS, and first reported by the Oregonian.
“I’m taking the opportunity of this management change to begin the transition to a more streamlined reporting structure,” Kelley-Siel wrote legislators. “James and Cathy have served our state for many years, and their work has helped Oregon achieve its well-deserved reputation for excellence in the service of seniors and people with disabilities.”
So far three state employees have lost their jobs over the alleged mismanagement of a $40.2 million federal grant program known nationally as Money Follows The Person. In Oregon, the program is called On The Move, and it’s intended to pay for equipment and building modifications that could make the difference in allowing someone to receive care at home rather than a nursing home.
The state had drawn down $17.9 million of the federal funds and spent $6.4 million in state general fund dollars before it was halted last August. The program has served 279 seniors and people with disabilities since 2008.
A missed deadline to report to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services about re-investment dollars began to raise red flags. In August 2010, program administrator Julia Huddleston resigned and an investigation into the program was launched.
Results of that investigation were released this week. Investigators found no criminal wrongdoing, but did find considerable mistakes by Huddleston, saying she “knowingly and intentionally failed to follow state procedures.”
The report found no direct fault by Toews and Cooper, however, saying their level of management was “consistent with the level of supervision for similar upper level management positions.”
Nonetheless, Kelley-Siel decided to dismiss both long-time employees. She also said she would take more direct control over the federal grant program and called for an in-depth audit of the $24 million already spent.
“Oregonians appropriately expect their government to operate accountably, efficiently and transparently,” Kelley-Siel wrote legislators.
A review of the program by the fraud investigation unit within DHS alleges general mismanagement on the part of Huddleston, program director.
She allegedly failed to report figures accurately to CMS and loaned money to providers for costs not directly related to client services. Loans were offered with zero interest and no specific repayment plan in direct violation of the grant program, according to the report.
Investigators also allege Huddleston used state equipment for personal use, kept inadequate and disorganized records and made promises to providers she was unauthorized to make.
In the biggest case, the Clatsop Care Center started a $7.5 million building project on promises it would receive $1.8 million on Oregon On the Move grant funds. When the program was halted, those funds were denied.
To Learn More
For past reporting at The Lund Report click here.
For a summary of the investigation click here.
For the full 134-page report click here.
For Erinn Kelley-Siel’s remarks to legislators click here.
Mar 18 2011