Santa Monica Lookout
City May Take Over Santa Monica Youth Nonprofit Organization
By Jason Islas
January 4, 2012 -- The Santa Monica City Council will decide Tuesday whether the City should discontinue funding and temporarily take over administration of the Pico Youth and Family Center after the organization's leadership failed to get the nonprofit's affairs in order.
According to City staff, there has been little improvement in how the organization, which caters to at-risk youth, is run since it entered into a “Last Chance Agreement” with the City in May.
“The agreement required PYFC’s commitment to accept the assistance of new independent oversight to increase fiscal, administrative and programmatic accountability,” staff wrote.
The troubled organization -- which receives over $300,000 from the city every year -- was given six months to account for several thousands of dollars in financial discrepancies and to address administrative and programmatic problems or else it would to lose its funding.
“In November 2011, the City found that duplicate payroll checks were issued in 2010 to PYFC staff including the Executive Director and Office Manager,” staff wrote.
Though that money was eventually returned to the agency, other duplicate pay checks had been cut to PYFC staff in 2009 and again, among those receiving a duplicate pay check was Executive Director Oscar de la Torre.
“To date and despite repeated requests, PYFC has not provided sufficient explanations and documentation for discrepancies in salary amounts reported in the FY 2009-10 year-end fiscal status report as compared to their payroll tax returns and budgeted line items,” staff wrote.
“It's false,” de la Torre said of the claim that the PYFC has not met the criteria in the “Last Chance Agreement.”
“We had 28 bench marks; all of them have been met,” he said.
Still, staff says the situation has not gotten any better, despite the City paying for a consultant from Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs (SEE) -- a nonprofit that specializes in providing “administrative support and oversight” to other nonprofits -- to help PYFC.
“On December 7, 2012, staff received the final Organizational Assessment Report... prepared by the organizational development consultant pursuant to her scope of work with SEE,” staff wrote.
“In this Assessment the consultant expressed her significant concerns regarding the viability of PYFC due to tremendous discord between the Executive Director, PYFC staff and the Board over issues of leadership, mission and purpose,” staff wrote.
In a written complaint to the City Attorney's office dated December 10, de la Torre called the consultant's report “very biased” and alleged that it was part of a “pattern of bias and perceived discriminatory practices under the authority of City Manager Rod Gould.”
In the letter, he has asks for an investigation of the City Manager. ("Santa Monica Youth Center Director Files Complaint Against City Manager," January 3)
In a December 26 report, an independent certified public accountant said, “Management does not appear to have adequate accounting knowledge regarding the internal control systems that are needed to facilitate proper management of a nonprofit organization.”
Several members of the PYFC board have resigned, including former Board Chair Amanda Seward, one of the architect's of the agency's recovery, who wrote a letter fingering de la Torre as one of the organization's biggest obstacles to recovery.
The consultant from SEE also resigned, “citing damaging remarks made by the Executive Director and one of the remaining board members that called into question her professionalism and credibility,” staff wrote.
In order to make sure that the organization, which serves primarily at-risk youth, can keep its services going, City staff will take over administration PYFC in the interim.
“The City staff are making the commitment that we will do whatever can and whatever it takes to keep the center open,” said Human Services Manager Julie Rusk.
The PYFC is located in a private building and the organization is responsible for the lease. If PYFC cannot pay the lease after being defunded, the City will explore options to keep the organization in that building, including possibly taking over the lease.
As part of that commitment, Rusk said, staff will work with other nonprofits in Santa Monica in order “to provide core services including collaborative case management; group and individual counseling; employment readiness and placement; drug and alcohol prevention; (and) re-entry services,” staff wrote.
“We are very committed to make sure young people have a place to go,” Rusk said.
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