- The Washington Times - Friday, April 9, 2004

The District government has discontinued funding a Southeast nonprofit group that city investigators accuse of charging low-income elderly residents for meals that were supposed to be free.

Senior Citizens Counseling & Delivery Service, at 2451 Good Hope Road SE has received more than $1.9 million in D.C. taxpayer funds since 2001 and nearly $9 million over the past 20 years to provide free meals, transportation and recreation services to low-income senior citizens living in Ward 8.

The D.C. Office on Aging decided to terminate month-to-month funding to the organization after learning last week of its wrongdoing, Director E.Veronica Pace said yesterday.

“The only thing I can say is that there will not be an interruption or a disruption in services,” Miss Pace said. She declined to say whether her office plans to hire another contractor or use city employees to provide the services, but added that city officials may open new meal sites.

Officials with Senior Counseling & Delivery are appealing Miss Pace’s decision.

Concha Johnson, executive director of the organization, called the report that uncovered the wrongdoing “error-ridden” and vowed to fight the funding cutoff.

“We will not let a wrong-headed bureaucratic action rob Ward 8 of the services our community desperately needs,” she said yesterday.

The report from the D.C. Office of Inspector General last week said the nonprofit group has been illegally charging residents entitled to free transportation and meals. City investigators said several senior citizens served by the group were denied meals because they could not make payments.

The report also found that the group has been selling meals to ineligible recipients, including Maryland residents. The group posted a sign at one meal site indicating that all Maryland residents had to pay $3.25 for meals, according to the report.

The meals, paid for by the city government, were supposed to go to low-income elderly residents.

“We witnessed individuals, such as office workers and individuals from the neighborhood, coming to the site, purchasing meals and carrying them away,” the report states.

Miss Pace, who initially requested the investigation in November 2002, said, “We accept the findings in the report, and we are in the process of implementing the recommendations.”

The inspector general’s report recommended that the D.C. government recoup nearly $300,000 from the organization. Office on Aging officials said they cannot comment on many of the specifics regarding city funds paid to the organization.

“There is possible litigation pending,” said Darlene Nowlin, a spokeswoman for the Office on Aging.

Miss Johnson refuted the findings, saying, “The report is filled with unprofessional characterizations.”

She said the 30-year old organization never has charged seniors for meals or other services and that “any allegation to the contrary is utterly and totally false.”

The organization filed an administrative appeal Wednesday seeking to overturn the funding cutoff, Miss Johnson said.

The organization’s 2000 tax return, the most recent available, shows it also received millions of dollars in funding through the Corporation for National Service, the parent agency of the federal AmeriCorps and SeniorCorps programs.

The inspector general’s report also criticizes the Office on Aging for poor oversight, saying it failed to properly monitor the organization’s performance.

According to the report, inadequate monitoring allowed Senior Citizens Counseling & Delivery Service to operate without a business license, provide food to the elderly without food-handler certificates and do business without an active board of directors.

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