A representative from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office met with the executive director and board members of the East Akron Community House along with several elected officials Wednesday.
The meeting was billed as a fact-finding session following the filing of a complaint by local officials seeking answers about the agency’s financial woes. The meeting lasted two hours.
The 102-year-old organization has lost 90 percent of its funding for services offered in the neighborhood.
In the complaint, officials refer to the staff and contractors of EACH staging a walkout on June 7 over “loss of funding, unfair firings, non-payment of wages and contract fees.”
The complaint also states that the electric company came to shut off electric service to the building for nonpayment, the same day as the walkout. It further states that checks have been written by the agency’s treasurer, but the executive has refused to mail any of them.
The complaint was filed by Summit County Councilwoman Tamela Lee, who represents the neighborhood, and Akron City Council members Ken Jones, D-5, who represents the ward where the agency is located, and Margo Sommerville, D-3, who is a former EACH board member.
“Meetings have been requested with the board with no response,” the complaint states. “We are requesting an investigation into the management and governance of the agency over the past 36 months, the use of taxpayer dollars and community investment. Requests for financial disclosure have been refused.”
Diane Oates of the Attorney General’s Office said she could not comment on whether an investigation into the agency’s finances is underway.
She said her job is to review records of nonprofit charitable organizations to make sure there aren’t any violations of state law or regulations.
“There is no way of determining what will happen in the future,” Oates said. “I can’t confirm or deny if any legal action will be taken. Naturally, we will need to review all the information we have requested.”
She said financial records and detailed accounts of revenue and program costs will be reviewed.
The executive director of EACH, Tiffany Edwards, and five board members were at the meeting. Edwards, who has led the agency for 2½ years, declined to comment Wednesday night.
City Councilman-at-large Mike Williams and State Rep. Vernon Sykes also attended.
“Basically the meeting was an explanation of how EACH handled some funding situations. Officials explained why they filed the complaint and EACH leaders explained how they were trying to diversify their financial portfolio because of funding competition,” Williams said. “There were some missteps — the agency missed a couple of funding source deadlines. There were no accusations that anything was done illegally, but more along the lines of management issues and a few mistakes made and everyone makes mistakes.
“My position is to work with the board and executive director through its difficulties.”
Lee said her biggest concern is that the agency is not following the law in finding other funding sources.
“Their sole purpose is to provide services for the community and if those services are gone, that is a breach of their fiduciary duty,” she said. “The leadership appears to be changing the agency’s role from offering services to becoming landlords and leasing out office space in the building. That is not the role of the East Akron Community House.”
Marilyn Miller can be reached at 330-996-3098 or firstname.lastname@example.org.