Future of Tri-County Community Action up in air

Director on unpaid leave; employees laid off; Meals on Wheels, other programs closed



The future of the local agency that administers the Meals on Wheels and numerous other social services programs is up in the air after board members learned it is in dire financial straits.

Tri-County Community Action board president Al Evans confirmed today that the board placed director Denise Birt on unpaid administrative leave Thursday, and Monday they made the decision to lay off all but essential administrative staff until further notice.

The moves mean a halt to the Meal on Wheels program that delivers meals to seniors and others in the community and other programs.

Assistant director Rebecca Tumblin was named as the interim director, but she did not return a phone call seeking comment this morning.

Board members were aware the agency was in a difficult position financially but were not aware of the full scope of the deficit until recently, Mr. Evans said.

“What drove our decision was that we were in a situation that under the past leadership we had situations where red flags indicated payroll checks had maybe not been honored,” he said. “As of the meeting, it was determined we would need to have at least $38,000 put in a bank account that is due Friday. Honestly, the funds aren’t there.

“We’ve been playing it close to the cuff for a while, but the director continued to assure the board we were going to make it through. We changed some staff and have a new fiscal officer and she brought a fiscal report to the board that made it clear how bad it was,” Mr. Evans said.

“After our last board meeting, we got a clearer picture of where we are financially and considering we had payroll checks that didn’t go through, we decided to put (Ms. Birt) on unpaid leave until we try to sort this out.”

The agency is $38,000 short of meeting this week’s payroll obligations and utility providers have threatened disconnection as early as today if utilities payments are not made, Mr. Evans said.

During a Monday meeting, the board attempted unsuccessfully to get the Ohio Developmental Services Agency, which oversees the agency’s funding, to release money that is being held because paperwork was not filed appropriately, Mr. Evans said.

“There is no way to meet payroll, but they were going to try to make arrangements to pay utilities so locations could stay open,” he said. “But we have not got word that has been done.

“We felt it would be an injustice to the employees to not let them know, so we suspended Meals on Wheels and other programs that are under this community service block grant that we didn’t have the money to support. All staff with exception of two people on the Community Action side have been laid off.”

The moves do not immediately affect the agency’s transportation services, such as Transportation Logan County, that operate under different funding sources, Mr. Evans said.

And the board is also hindered by the fact that it owes its lawyers thousands of dollars and has no legal advice in moving forward.

“We are kind of in a holding pattern waiting for an answer from the state what they can do for us. They are not obligated to do anything, but we hope they can provide some answers,” Mr. Evans said.

“Once we figure out what wasn’t submitted properly we will submit it and get the money. But it’s going to take time but we don’t have time. Hopefully, we can get some things straightened out and move forward.”