Meadville Tribune

Local News

January 8, 2014

CFO eyed for Workforce Investment Board

MEADVILLE — More than a dozen people have applied to be chief fiscal officer for the Northwest Pennsylvania Workforce Investment Board.

Six chief local elected officials (CLEOs) — one each from Crawford County and five other counties of northwestern Pennsylvania — met in executive session Wednesday to begin initial review resumes for a new chief fiscal officer for the Northwest Pennsylvania Workforce Investment Board. The Workforce Investment Board (WIB) is responsible for job training in Crawford, Erie, Venango, Warren, Forest and Clarion counties.

The former fiscal agency for the WIB, the Regional Center for Workforce Excellence (RCWE), was ousted by the CLEOs after a forensic state audit found more than $225,000 in questionable and wasteful spending of job training funds by the RCWE.

It was on Aug. 19, 2013, that the CLEOs who oversee the WIB unanimously voted to suspend the then-46-member WIB and have the six act as the WIB’s executive committee; and appointed the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry as the acting fiscal agent while the audit was being done.

The audit, conducted this fall by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry at the request of the CLEOs, covered the period between July 1, 2009, through July 30, 2012, when the RCWE was the then-fiscal agent of the WIB. The forensic audit looked at more than $6 million in questionable spending during that period and determined $227,476.29 in unallowed expenses that now must be repaid by the counties.

The counties’ individual shares of the money owed are proportioned at 53 percent or $120,562.43 for Erie; 18 percent or $40,945.73 for Crawford; 11 percent or $25,022.39 for Venango; 8 percent or $18,198.10 each for Clarion and Warren; and 2 percent or $4,549.53 for Forest.

The six counties are working to appoint someone as soon as possible as the chief financial officer, but it will take time, according to Robert Snyder Jr. He is a Forest County commissioner who chairs the CLEOs.

The CLEOs hope to have a new chief financial officer in place by Feb. 28, Snyder said.

“That person will be writing checks and paying the bills,” Snyder said.

The audit found the RCWE had acted as both job programmer and fiscal agent for the WIB, Snyder said.

“That’s the problem — we’re not allowed to do that.”

The state audit found the RCWE “has pushed the limits of their authority,” and had “not always been clear in the information provided to decision makers.” In some instances, the RCWE acting as the fiscal agent “ignored the guidance or requests” of the CLEOs, the auditors said.

The CLEOs will meet Jan. 17 with officials from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry about how to repay the money that’s owed as well as a host of other issues, Snyder said.

“We’ve got pages and pages of questions,” Snyder said.

Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at kgushard@meadvilletribune.com.

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