$700,000 in Job-Training Funds Imperiled : Employment: County may lose federal funds because agency that trains and finds jobs for unskilled workers is more than three months late in providing documentation for about 35 cases.


A Southeast-area job training agency has failed to prove that it found employment for as many unskilled, undereducated and low-income workers as it has claimed, jeopardizing $700,000 in federal funds earmarked for the county to help the disadvantaged, a county official said.

The agency, Hub Cities Consortium, is more than three months late in providing documentation for about 35 cases, said Daniel J. Flaming, director of the county Private Industry Council, which oversees Hub Cities and five similar agencies.

Hub Cities hires subcontractors to train and find jobs for about 250 people a year in Bell, South Gate, Lynwood, Compton, Huntington Park, Maywood and Cudahy, Flaming said. The program is financed through the federal Job Training Partnership Act. The Hub Cities consortium was formed by officials of the seven cities, and a council member from each city sits on the board of directors.

Because documentation has not been turned in, Flaming said, state job-training officials have threatened to withhold $700,000 to be given to the county as an incentive for administering the job program.

The projects that the incentive money supports include training for youths who come out of probation camps, a reunification program for children and their mothers who have been in jail, and child care for participants in job-training programs. These programs would be shut down if the money is withheld, Flaming said.

"If Hub Cities does not come up with the paper work, it will be a loss to the entire county," he said. "In some ways the ships here all sink and float together."

In addition, the seven cities that participate in the Hub Cities Consortium may be asked to pay the county $140,000--$4,000 per case--if the proper documents are not submitted, Flaming said. The consortium receives about $4,000 per person from the county, which is reimbursed by the state. The state oversees the distribution of federal funds for the job program.

Maynard G. Law, the executive director of Hub Cities Consortium, said documents for several of the 35 cases have been submitted to the county. But a disgruntled former employee of one of the job-training subcontractors has the other 18 files and refuses to hand them in, Law said.

"There is not much we can do about it," Law said. "It's a legal fight."

He said he thought it is "amazing" that such a furor would develop over "a few little pieces of paper."

The dispute is one of several between the consortium and the county since the organization was formed 18 months ago, Law said.

The consortium is seeking to receive its money directly from the state, rather than through the county, which takes 9% to 15% of the consortium's $4.5 million annual budget for administrative fees, he said.

Law said his organization has been the target of undue scrutiny, including a higher-than-average number of audits, because it has asked to sever its ties with the county's Private Industry Council.

"I call that borderline harassment," Law said. Flaming said the county audits were conducted to comply with federal guidelines.

County officials also have raised several questions about the ability of the consortium to manage funds and meet its goals. In a letter to the state Job Training Partnership division of the Employment Development agency, the county repeatedly refers to the consortium's "poor performance."

In a response to the county letter, Law called the county's accusations "inaccurate, misleading, irrational, and perhaps libelous." Law said the consortium has consistently met 100% of its goals.

Gloria Almendariz, the state monitor of job training funds, said she probably will wait another two weeks before withholding the incentive money earmarked for the county.

She said the documentation initially was due Oct. 4, then the deadline was extended to Dec. 29.

"We have to give everyone the benefit of the doubt," she said. "But sooner or later we reach a point where we start asking more questions. The longer it takes to do something the more reasons there are to look harder. We can't just let it slide. These are tax dollars that have to be accounted for."

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