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Agency spent tax money on employees, not clients

Posted at 7:27 PM, Dec 17, 2015

An audit released Thursday reveals that administrators at a Denver-based nonprofit used tax dollars for personal expenses instead of using the money toward helping those who need it the most.

The audit was conducted by Denver’s city auditor Timothy O’Brien after questions were raised regarding spending at Rocky Mountain Human Services, which provides services for developmentally disabled children and adults around Colorado and parts of Wyoming. 

The nonprofit receives more than $12 million a year from a city mill levy that comes from property tax revenue.

The contract, managed by the Denver Department of Human Services, specifies that money can only be used for their services specifically in Denver.

The audit shows some $1.8 million were used instead to provide employees with personal Internet services and Costco memberships, among other things. The report also points out the agency used money for an office in Colorado Springs, an international trip, and even almost $50,000 on meetings.

“I think it’s clear that funds that could have been spent on the people in the program were not spent on people in the program,” said O’Brien.

The audit also showed the chief executive director's yearly salary of $500,000; O’Brien said the amount is double the salary of the next highest paid director at a similar nonprofit in the state.

The agency's board of directors have since fired the executive director and chief financial officer, O’Brien said. 

“We regret that there was some misspending of tax payer funds,” said Sharri Repinski, who now serves as the agencies’ interim executive director. 

She spoke at a public forum held Thursday after the audit was released, but she wouldn’t, however, specify why it took months or event longer for the board of directors to notice the violations.

Instead, Repinski told Denver7 that the organization was in a “financial crisis” with more than $8 million in losses. Some 70 positions were eliminated to make up for the deficit.

“We eliminated those expenses that were not necessary,” she said.

She said employees no longer receive online service or Costco memberships.

Administrators at Rocky Mountain Human Services will renegotiate their contract with the Denver Department of Human Services at the beginning of 2016. 

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