The Danbury City Council will appoint a committee Thursday to investigate financial questions about the city's anti-poverty agency, a council meeting that occurs a day after rumors circulated about IRS agents visiting the North Street offices of CACD.
The Community Action Committee of Danbury was founded in 1967, and financial management questions were raised during the mayoral terms of Jimmy Dyer in the 1980s, and again they were raised during the mayoral terms of Gene Eriquez and now under Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton.
"The finances are putting into jeopardy services to the people who need them the most," said City Council President Joe Cavo. Cavo said the mayor's letter asking the council to investigate CACD's finances hasn't yet reached the council, but he thinks it will ask for a sub committee to investigate those problems.
CACD got into trouble in 2011 while signing up customers for low cost oil, an income-based program that helps hundreds of Danbury residents heat their homes every winter. The statewide program helps thousands of people each year in the state, and in 2011, CACD was supposed to instruct people to buy their oil from ABC Fuel. At least 68 times, CACD workers sent the customers elsewhere.
"This misjudgement by CACD has jeopardized the relationship with this department and has placed CACD at risk of litigation from ABC Fuel," wrote state Department of Social Services Commissioner Michael Starkowski. He warned CACD to train its workers properly and prove to DSS it won't happen again. DSS has called CACD an, "Agency in Crisis."
The questions about CACD's finances today arise from at least four directions, including the state Department of Social Services, the federal Department of Health and Human Services, the Hispanic Center of Danbury, the Danbury City Council and on Wednesday questions arose about possible IRS interest.
Last week hundreds of people gathered on Harmony Street to show support for the Hispanic Center, which had been warned it was at risk of losing CACD funding. At that gathering Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton said the city would work to make sure the Hispanic Center didn't lose its funding. Boughton said a key issue for him regarding CACD's financial issues is that Danbury residents don't lose the money that is supposed to reach them through CACD.
Efforts to reach officials at CACD Wednesday night were unsuccessful. Attempts to reach an IRS spokesperson Wednesday evening were unsuccessful, leaving the question about IRS agents at CACD Wednesday unconfirmed.
"I heard it from at least four people," said one Danbury elected official who called Danbury Patch, but spoke on the condition of anonymity. "But I don't have confirmation. They weren't the kind of people who talk to each other. I think something happened today."
Shortly after that, another elected official from a different political party called to say he thought the IRS visited not only the CACD offices, but also subcontractors of CACD.
CACD acts as an umbrella agency dispensing money from state or federal sources to other local agencies who either provide the services directly or who distribute money or services to people in need.
When City Council members talk about this particular problem, they repeatedly say they want the state money coming to Danbury. Nobody wants to lose, for example, the oil money that people need. They don't want it lost to the city's residents because of mismanagement at CACD and sent by the state to other towns or cities.
In an Office of the Inspector General audit conducted of the 2009 year, the report said, "...significant operating deficiencies existed at CACD that impact its ability to manage and account for Federal funds and its capability to carry out the CSBG Recovery Act program in compliance with Federal requirements."
The report made numerous recommendations about how CACD could correct the problems.