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December 14th, 2011 NIGEL JAQUISS | News Stories
 

Urban League Contract Under Review

County records show concerns about the quality of services the nonprofit provides.

news3-wilhoite_3806DEFENDING THE LEAGUE: Urban League Board Treasurer Charles Wilhoite disputes records that question the quality of the organization’s services to seniors.
The Urban League of Portland saw its president quit last week after allegations of financial mismanagement, but troubles for the 66-year-old nonprofit are far from over.

Ex-president Marcus C. Mundy’s use of the Urban League credit card—auditors said he racked up $44,000 in expenses with no documented purpose over the past three years—led to his resignation Dec. 9.

The credit-card use—first reported by WW on Dec. 7—continued for years while auditors for Multnomah County asked for documentation and proof the spending had anything to do with the Urban League’s mission.

Now the larger question is whether the board’s lax oversight and Mundy’s failure to institute basic fiscal controls imperil the organization.

Newly released documents WW obtained under the state’s public records law shed light on the quality of the services taxpayers were getting from the organization.

Multnomah County has paid the Urban League $230,000 a year to provide services to seniors and a children’s program. This contract gave county auditors the right to inspect the Urban League’s books, and that’s how they turned up Mundy’s unchecked spending.

The county documents related to the Urban League’s programs for seniors show a pattern of shoddy record-keeping; failure to respond to requests for information; failure to attend important meetings; “glaring omissions” in narratives of client care; and a persistent pattern of providing excuses rather than results.

“I am extremely concerned about the UL [Urban League]’s ability to deliver services per the [county] contract because of high staff turnover, lack of UL representation in important meetings, etc,” wrote Christine Wilson, a senior official in the county’s Aging and Disability Division on March 17, 2011. 

The Urban League’s program for seniors has also been plagued by a lack of financial controls. This July, for instance, county officials determined that nearly $3,000 in TriMet passes allocated to the Urban League had neither been used nor returned.

“Bus tickets/passes are an area that needs good management/fiscal controls as there is higher risk for fraud/misuse and it appears that UL does not have good controls in place,” wrote Lee Girard, county community services manager in a July 28, 2011, email to colleagues.

Urban League Board Treasurer Charles Wilhoite takes issue with the idea that the League’s programs failed to provide quality services.

“To the extent the board was ever made aware of concerns regarding the delivery of services through any UL program, those concerns would have been addressed,” he said via email.

“The fact that the UL has been providing services to seniors and kids for extended, continuous periods, through the same funder(s), suggests that the delivery of the services has satisfied expectations.”

The documents show that the county’s Aging and Disability Services Division (which provides more than 20 percent of Urban League’s budget) would like to see the Hollywood Senior Center take over the Urban League contract.

County spokesman David Austin says the county is in the process of deciding whether to cut off funding to the Urban League.

“We are awaiting any further information they provide before we issue our final assessment on the fiscal review,” Austin says. 

 
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