Questions surround New Horizons

SOUTH GLENDALE — One week before city officials are due to give an update on a delayed project for New Horizons Family Center, revelations of financial troubles at the nonprofit suggest problems run deeper than mere construction setbacks.

When the acting director of New Horizons Family Center resigned suddenly last week, she warned the Board of Directors about late employee paychecks and other financial woes.

"I am also very concerned about the lack of monies being received and the unhealthy work environment," Angie Gonzalez said in an e-mail to board members and employees. "We continuously have to wait on payroll, and although I am financially secure, it is not fair to New Horizons Family Center staff, and I have honestly exhausted all excuses."

Gonzalez, a former executive assistant at New Horizons, had taken the helm after founder Maria Rochart unexpectedly resigned in April, a move she said was to avoid any appearance of a conflict with her new role as a Los Angeles County commissioner.

Since Gonzalez's departure, at least one prominent board member has resigned, and there has been no announcement of a new executive director.

Former board President Rich Roche said this week that he resigned after Gonzalez's departure, but said it was in order to make more time for other commitments.

A receptionist at New Horizons said Rochart, who serves as board president, is out of the country and remains unavailable for comment. Board Vice President Ruth Charles could not be reached.

Next week, city officials are scheduled to brief the Community Development Block Grant Advisory Committee on the status of a number of federally subsidized capital projects, including New Horizons' delayed "Children's Village Nuestra Casa."

The nonprofit's long-awaited new children's facility has experienced repeated construction delays, more than three years after Rochart first secured the entitlements needed to move forward.

Construction was to begin last spring after years of planning delays, but the construction contractor said he has yet to get an updated schedule for the project — months after Rochart told commissioners they were set to break ground.

And New Horizons' outside accountant, Carlos Castro, said Thursday that the nonprofit had received an extension from the IRS in filing the latest financial information because "they were having troubles gathering the monies to pay for" the required audit.

For several months, the center's longstanding website, newhorizonsfamilycenter.org, has been defunct.

Founded in 1994, New Horizons has long been a local favorite for government funding allocations as one of the major child-care and counseling providers for low-income youth in Glendale.

Since 2004, the City Council has allocated the nonprofit roughly $600,000 in federal block grants and stimulus funding for social services and capital improvements.

"Of course it is a concern to us because this is a great organization that we've supported for a long time," said Efrain Olivares, longtime member of the Community Development Block Grant Advisory Committee, which advises the City Council on funding allocations. "We want to make sure everything is moving in the right direction."

Glendale Community Services & Parks Assistant Director Jess Duran said officials would be providing the advisory committee with an update on the status of the Children's Village project, but had not received information on other changes at New Horizons.

"We do not plan to report on anything else related to New Horizons at this time," he said in an e-mail. "Hopefully, we'll be receiving a status report from New Horizons soon regarding their organizational changes."

Former advisory committee Chairman Zareh Amirian — who publicly clashed with Rochart in 2008 on a proposed federal funding cut — said he feels bad for the children the group serves.

"I certainly had my questions regarding New Horizons and the manner in which they approached their funding requests, how they politicized it," he said. "To see something like this, it's just unfortunate for the children. They are going to be the ones that are caught up in the middle of this."

Amirian, who now serves on the city's Audit Committee, urged the advisory committee to scrutinize New Horizons' finances further given the recent series of events.

"The big question for the new CDBG committee should be to look at the administration for that organization and to ensure that the funds they are receiving are being used for the purposes they are saying they are being used for," he said.

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