Director John Hostetler confirms he gave employees holiday bonuses of $100 or less without board ok.
By Lauris Olson
(May 8, 2012 – 4:15 p.m. ) Story County Supervisors decided today to ask the state auditor for advice on how to handle their growing questions about the Richmond Center’s use of special funding.
Use of the money came under fire during the supervisors’ discussion on the overdue status of the financially strapped community mental health agency’s Fiscal Year 2011 audit. The audit was supposed to be provided to the county and the three other entities that make up the Analysis of Social Services Evaluation Team (ASSET) funding consortium by Jan. 1.
“I think we are getting the runaround.” said supervisor Rick Sanders. “Here we are going into a another year and I don’t think we are going to get anything. I think it is time to call the state auditor to come up and meet with us. I don’t feel good where things are. I don’t trust them.
“I’ve heard unofficial rumblings that the director of the Richmond Center paid big bonuses to the staff last year without getting board approval.”
But John Hostetler, executive director of the Richmond Center and the agency which manages it, Community and Family Resources (CFR) , told AmesNewsOnline that the “big bonuses” paid at the end of the year were really just small holiday bonuses.
“There were about 130 employees – most who provide services to clients in both the Richmond Center and CFR, not just a few at the Richmond Center as the rumors are saying,” said Hostetler.
“Full-time employees got $100. Part-time employees got $50 and employees who are PRN, working only when needed, got $25. I received nothing.”
In all, the amount was about $11,000, said Deb Schildroth, director of the county’s Community Life services and the county’s representative on the ASSET administrative team.
Schildroth said that January meeting minutes from the Community and Family Resources/Richmond Center joint board showed that Hostetler had been reprimanded for failing to get board approval prior to distributing the bonuses.
Community and Family Resources took over management of the Richmond Center in 2008 after the agency found itself within two weeks of being insolvent without any ability to borrow operating funds.
Schildroth said the minutes report that the board went into closed session and “told them he shouldn’t have done this and not to do this in the future.”
“Did I do it without board approval, yes,” said Hostetler. “This is something we had done in the past, not all the time but several times. They are tokens of appreciation for all the hard work over the year. Somehow, the bonuses didn’t get put on the board’s December agenda, so I decided to go ahead.
“I was formally reprimanded, which I think was appropriate under the circumstances.”
Story County has allocated about $120,000 above client service fees to the financially strapped center over the last three years. The center said it needed the funds to help cover payroll, pay for updated technology and fund staff recruiting and retention efforts.
The City of Ames and United Way of Story County also provided money to bolster the community mental health agency’s efforts to keep operating. Ames provided a 25,000 forgivable loan in November, 2008 for technology updates. United Way gave a grant of 44,500, also in 2008.
The county is severing ties with the Richmond Center after the center’s 2013 funding application to ASSET showed a possible operating deficit of $325,000 next year. The financial history also showed that Community and Family Resources had spent up over $500,000 from their reserves on Richmond Center expenses.
The ASSET team reacted by recommending CFR close the Richmond Center and focus on providing its core services of addiction and substance abuse treatment. The supervisors, who fund and allocate Medicaid payments for mental health services for low-income county residents, sought a new mental health agency.
Eyerly Ball, Polk County’s community mental health center, will take over the servicing of county- and Medicaid-paid clients on July 1. The City of Ames, United Way and ISU’s Government of the Study Body, another ASSET funder, are also switching to Eyerly Ball.
Some clients who self-pay or those who have private insurance might be able to still receive mental health services through the Richmond Center/CFR partnership, said Hostetler.
“”We’ve avoided saying the Richmond Center is “closing” because it frightens clients,” said Hostetler. “Plus we will continue providing some services. But the real message I want out there for the clients is that they will still receive services, it will just be somewhere else.”
The county has paid the Richmond Center billings through February. The March, April, May and June will be due later this summer.
Sanders said he was more worried about money that had already been paid than the money the county will still need to pay.
“I am not asking what we are going to do in the future,” said Sanders ‘I am mortified and I want to find out what is going on with CFR.”
He said he isn’t planning on filing a formal complaint with State of Iowa Auditor David Vaudt yet.
“I just want to know how to go forward,” said Sanders “I want to call the auditor and ask to meet with him. I want to invite Ames and invite United Way and have some of our staff there. I want to know what we should do next.”
Hostetler said he has no problem with an inquiry from the state auditor and he believes that the Richmond Center’s accounting firm may have the 2011 audit ready for everyone by the end of the month.
“Have I made some mistakes? I have,” said Hostetler. “But I don’t believe one of them was made related concerning client treatment and care. “