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Souza Sees Lesson In Agency's Demise

City councilwoman who served on oversight board said greater public scrutiny was needed of a now-defunct local agency, two of whose former leaders have been accused of fraud.

 

A week ago the Alameda County district attorney's office indicted two former officers of a now-defunct local agency for the alleged misuse of a reported $500,000 in local and federal funds.

The accused, Nanette Sheree Dillard and Paul Daniels -- a wife and husband team -- were senior administrators for the Associated Community Action Program, or ACAP.

ACAP was a grant-dispensing agency, taking in federal and other funds, and doling them out to local non-profits, according to San Leandro City Councilwoman Diana Souza, who had represented San Leandro on the agency's 13-member board.

The guilt or innocence of the accused is now up to the legal system. But how this obscure agency fell into disrepute is a parable of concern to taxpayers.

"It's like when you have a heart attack, you look back," Souza said.

She offered this account of ACAP's fall from the vantage of the five years she served on its governing board -- including being the chairperson who shut it down.

For years ACAP had cruised along, taking in about $500,000 a year in funds from higher levels of government and funneling them out through a grant application process. It was overseen by a 13-member board including participating cities like San Leandro.

When the Obama stimulus plan went into effect the agency's incoming funds ballooned to about $2.5 million over a three-year period and ACAP began channeling money into projects like helping parolees find work, Souza said.

But despite the fact that there was more money flowing through the agency Souza said that, in retrospect, there were signs that something was amiss.

For instance, she remembers getting calls from vendors saying they hadn't been paid for services. Souza said that Dillard, the agency's former executive director assured board members that everything was fine.

Things came to a head about a year ago when a group of ACAP employees came before the governing board and complained in public about the agency's leadership, Souza said.

Once they took a hard look, Souza said board members discovered "there wasn't any money in the bank, that we couldn't cover payroll."

So ACAP's board put Dillard on administrative leave and dissolved the agency.

Souza recalled going back to ACAP's headquarters in Hayward a few days after that showdown board meeting. She found Dillard's office cleared out. At that point the Hayward police were called in to investigate.

That was a year ago.

At the time, East Bay Citizen writer Steven Tavares criticized the haphazard attendance of ACAP's oversight board -- though it should be noted that Souza was one of only four members with a perfect record in his report.

Did it matter that the two accused former executives, Dillard and Daniels were married?

Souza said there was nothing in county administrative procedure to prevent the couple from working at ACAP. Dillard was executive director. Daniels ran grant programs and reported to a deputy director, not directly to his wife, she said.

Souza summed up the episode this way: "I look at it as a wakeup call to anyone who serves on a board. This is an example of bad things happening to a good agency."

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Marga Lacabe March 01, 2012 at 08:29 PM
I do hope that Diana has learned a lesson from this. And the lessons is that being in public office, whether it means being in City Council or sitting on some board, gives you the /responsibility/ to actually oversee whatever agency you are suppose to be overseeing. That doesn't mean glancing at the documents staff presents to you, nodding boringly and then accepting everything. It means to actually put the time and effort to understand how the agency is working, and corroborate independently if it's doing its job. So far I have not seen Council member Souza show any signs of having learned this lesson in her City Council actions. Pretty much all I hear from her is "staff is busy, don't ask them to do more work" and "let's hurry up and vote on what staff tells us to do" .
Ken Briggs March 02, 2012 at 02:01 AM
no more man & wife team or couples working in same office , make them repay all missing funds and jail time
Fran March 02, 2012 at 02:31 AM
Half of these so-called non-profits are nothing but a scam. Same thing happened in San Francisco. These people were probably skimming for years, and after the stimulus monies they got even greedier. It's no wonder every level of government is flat broke.
Thomas Clarke March 02, 2012 at 04:01 PM
Nate Miley was a strong supporter of ACAP and an apologist for Dillard and Daniels for more than just the year before failure. No one is looking into the kickbacks that Miley and his crew may have received through the half million a year that was cleaned up by ACAP. Of course there are no investigative teams looking at this and there is little chance that this stinking fish will be cleaned up properly. It will go away and Nate will continue to thrive and be reelected.
Caren Dillyworth March 06, 2012 at 04:55 PM
Don't you folks get it? Souza was on the board that had governing authority over ACAP. The board was responsible for overseeing where the federal funding that flowed from the state to Alameda County. When Souza pushed the quorum of the board from five to seven, in March 2010, the board did not meet again until February 2011. ACAP needed the governing board to sign off on any funding held by Alameda county. The fact that the board did not do it's job for a year put ACAP in the red. The so called "husband and wife team" had no access to the funding held by the county and they kept ACAP running for a year without the help of the governing board.
Kymberlee May 05, 2012 at 04:09 AM
I am a former employee of ACAP. I worked under Nanette and Paul. I gave my time and commitment to helping ex-offenders and youth obtain employment opportunities. I ran workforce development courses and pleaded with management to give us the supplies we needed to operate the office. My colleagues and I, suffered under the so called leadership of Nanette and Paul. They were the greediest people I had ever met. I once mentioned that we needed toiletries for the commoon bathroom that our clients used. Paul brought our office one toilet tissue roll. They committed a crime against our community, our youth and all ex-offenders. I hope they serve lengthy prison terms. Sincerely, BETA Employee

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