Thousands of dollars of city and county funds have been withheld from a South San Francisco neighborhood services center because of lack of auditing documentation and clear planning by the organization, along with other financial concerns.
The North Peninsula Neighborhood Services Center, located at 600 Linden Ave. off of Grand Avenue, provides social services such as a food bank, discounted minor home repair services and community education. The city is currently withholding $24,000 in funds because the center didn’t turn in financial documents or a one- to three-year plan. In the first quarter of 2014, the City Council will make a final decision on the allocation, said Interim City Manager Steve Mattas. This past June, it would have approved the funding for this year’s budget, but it decided to not authorize the contract for this year’s funding.
Meanwhile, the county decided to terminate its contract with the center in early November, effective Nov. 30. The aggregate value of three contracts with the county is approximately $173,000, county officials said.
“Their clients are calling all over for help and I don’t know if anyone is helping them,” said Mayor Pro Tem Karyl Matsumoto, a member of the council’s Community Development Block Grant committee. “We kept going back and requesting more information, but they never provided the information. We could not in good faith recommend to continue funding.”
She noted the city had to fund Thanksgiving services because the center was unable to given the funding losses. Matsumoto added that she can’t comment on any potential fraud investigations of the organization since they don’t pertain to the city.
“This didn’t happen overnight,” she said. “It wasn’t a snap decision.”
The organization does have some outside funding, but the county’s money was the largest chunk of its financing, said Jeff Bayer, the center’s executive director. Without this, he said it is struggling to survive.
Bayer said the organization is trying to get this worked out and that the city’s and county’s actions are completely unjustified. He said he’s been trying to meet with the council, but there has been no response from the city. The center did submit a business plan and auditing forms, he said.
“Everything seems to be really closed door,” Bayer said. “We continue to do the work all through this point without being paid. We’re extremely disappointed in the small-town, one-sided political mess this has turned into. It’s a travesty; it set into motion what happened with the county.”
Bayer said the center gathered 250 signatures from local residents asking for funding to stay in place.
“We’re really frustrated with the lack of ability to have any kind of reasonable dialogue,” he said. “They gave us no chance to succeed. People are spreading lies and mistruth; they’ve manipulated through all these other sources to this. I haven’t been informed of any fraud and the county actually cut off communications on our issues two weeks before they did anything.”
On the other hand, the county decided to terminate its contract with the center since reviews raised concerns the residents may not be served well in the long term, said Effie Verducci, communications manager for the Human Services Agency. Services that were no longer funded included self-sufficiency to the low income, financial education, landlord tenant mediation, a CalFresh food stamps program and health coverage programming.
“There were concerns about fiscal sustainability and operational issues,” said Supervisor Dave Pine.
These core services have been moved to the Human Services Agency’s South San Francisco office at 1487 Huntington Ave. and is open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Call (415) 877-5665 for more information.
“That community is still being well served,” Verducci said.
After the holidays, the county will issue a request to the community for service proposals and will eventually have another long-term center, she said. The Human Services Agency funds several core service agencies to carry out its services.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 105