Clearly there were no winners in the collapse of the Tri County Community Action Commission, but at least there is now some degree of closure.
Earlier this week, the former executive director Denise Birt entered a plea and agreed to pay back $75,000 that was overpaid her in regular installments over a decade during which the organization crumbled. But it is far from a victory for the taxpayers or the local businesses that have suffered as a result of the irresponsible management of the agency.
The non-profit organization, born of the community action movement set in motion by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965 celebrated its 50th birthday during the past three years of turmoil, but it is now no more than an entity in name only — existing for the sole purpose of trying to settle debts still owed to vendors that were never paid and government agencies that still question whether the money they provided was spent as intended.
Fortunately, however, the services Tri County once provided in Logan, Champaign and Shelby counties have continued under the guidance of the other groups capable of managing the programs — including the Community Action Organization of Delaware, Madison and Union Counties that took over the bulk of programming; RTC Industries, which now handles Transportation Logan County; and LifeCare Alliance that delivers meals to senior citizens through the Meals on Wheels program.
Unfortunately, a number of businesses have faced significant financial loss or were never paid for goods or services provided to Tri County over the final years. Not least among those is a local bank that provided a loan on a building the organization should never have borrowed money against. A civil lawsuit is nearing settlement in the federal court system, but the bank likely still will face a financial loss, those close to the case report.
- Written by REUBEN MEES