An investigative audit by the state’s legislative auditor is now in the hands of the U.S. Attorney and the Orleans Parish district attorney. The audit looks into a local non-profit, Alternatives Living, that was the subject of a series of FOX 8 investigations in 2014. The non-profit was supposed to help the homeless and disabled – but our stories showed the directors may have been helping themselves with agency money.
“It never even occurred to us as an issue,” said Alternatives Living program director Ada Craige-Roberson when we interviewed the non-profit’s directors in November 2014. They defended the hundreds of thousands of dollars of questionable spending from money through a grant from the federal government.
“When it comes down to personal charges on the credit card, at our agency we are always working,” said chief financial officer Rickey Roberson. “Basically we are on call 24/7. And a lot of times like when we’re working, we might get calls if we’re out of town on a vacation or something like that.”
The legislative auditor raised similar questions in a 27-page report released Monday morning. The auditor noted the senior officers used $133,164 of public funds for personal purposes. Another $247,925 in spending was labeled as questionable and lacked supporting “documentation.” And the auditor said, “By using public funds for personal benefit,” the officers “may have violated state and federal law.”
“Some of the stuff, we just didn’t know and we learned the hard way,” said Rickey Roberson in our interview.
The audit noted $50,000 in personal entertainment expenses for tickets to the Hornets and Saints and to music concerts. The audit also noted $4,800 in payments for a Mercedes-Benz. We showed that Mercedes in our story last year.
“Well, I don’t think it’s a problem,” Roberson said at the time. “We could have gotten a Chevy that paid the same amount of the note, the lease for. So I don’t think the name brand makes a difference. I think the amount of money that we’re paying on it, I think, is reasonable.”