Saturday, July 15, 2000

MRDD may be out $700,000

Troubled Warren County agency missed deadlines for bills

By David Eck
Enquirer Contributor

        LEBANON — The embattled Warren County Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities agency may have lost as much as $700,000 in state and school district reimbursements because it did not send bills for the money in time, The Cincinnati Enquirer has learned.

        The missed state money, as much as $500,000, covers reimbursable services the agency provided to clients during the first five months of 1999, said Audrey Williams, the MRDD's director of business services.

        The agency did not file for the reimbursement within one year, as required.

        In fact, no requests for the state reimbursement were sent in 1999, said Mrs. Williams, who discovered the problem after she joined the agency in May.

        Though she is now billing the state for the 1999 services, Mrs. Williams is not optimistic that the agency will be repaid in full.

        “There is a chance that I may recover it in an audit,” she said. “I'm sure they won't give me all of it.”

        Client services eligible for state reimbursement include transportation, treatment and professional services.

        MRDD also neglected to seek about $200,000 in reimbursement from school districts for the 1998-99 school year for educating students whose parents live outside Warren County.

        The agency can bill those students' home school districts for costs that exceed what MRDD receives from the state, Mrs. Wil liams said.

        She said she doesn't know how much, if any, of that money can be recovered.

        “You don't know how upset I was when I found out about this. It just wasn't done,” Mrs. Williams said.

        “That's going to be $700,000 we're not going to have. It's so frustrating because these (clients) need help so badly.”

        The agency operates on a budget of roughly $13 million a year.

        MRDD superintendent John Lazares would not identify the employee who was responsible for the reimbursement requests, nor would he say if the employee had been disciplined.

        But he said the oversights occurred under the MRDD's previous board and administration.

        The effect of the missed reim bursements on the agency's services is unclear, Mrs. Williams said.

        “That kind of money has an impact because those are dollars that we normally would have gotten that would have offset those costs,” Mr. Lazares said.

        “It's like turning down free money.”

        The agency has been under fire from county commissioners and the public since former superintendent Charlotte Marinacci last year bought two houses for the agency at tens of thousands of dollars over market value.

        That prompted Mrs. Marinacci's retirement and the forced resignations of board members.

        The agency has since been reorganized with nearly all new board members and several new administrators.


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