Prevention Partnership responds to fund allegations

Prevention Partnership responds to fund allegations

McCormick: Spending approved by state and fed oversight

SCITUATE – Questions raised about spending on salary and vacation time for the Scituate Prevention Partnership led the Town Council last month to freeze the youth drug prevention group’s account, pending an effort to get answers.

The issue arose when Scituate Housing Authority member Richard Finnegan found Erika McCormick, program manager and coordinator for the SPP and a Republican running for School Committee, was paid at least 54.5 hours of vacation time from July 2016 to January 2018.

Additionally, Finnegan questioned why McCormick’s pay was as high as it was for a “consultant position.”

“This is not a volunteer position. This is a paid position,” McCormick told The Valley Breeze & Observer. “I recorded vacation time to keep track of my time not spent working. The grant is so under-billed for my time during the duration of this grant.”

McCormick’s salary increased from $3,600 in 2014 to $30,890 in 2017. In 2015, she earned $12,640, and in 2016 earned $12,000. So far, McCormick has been paid $11,390 this year.

The five-year, $363,500 Strategic Prevention Framework Partners for Success grant was issued to Scituate to “reduce illicit drugs among youth between the ages of 12 and 17 years of age,” McCormick said in an August 2014 letter to the town.

She explained the five-year Prevention Partnership worked in five phases, or one each year. The first grant year, which runs from July 1 to June 30, was the assessment phase. During this time, McCormick spent much of her time training for the partnership, while her grant manager, Nancy DeNuccio, assessed the town.

The next phase, “capacity building,” was designed to lay a foundation for helping youth. The following year was planning followed by implementation, which took much more time, said McCormick.

“When we got into the implementation portion at the end of year two and the beginning of year three, it was much more labor intensive on Erika’s part than previous years,” DeNuccio said.

The final year, the evaluation year, found McCormick and the SPP in full compliance with the grant, which was partially why a grant extension was issued to the town.

The town recently signed an extension on the grant, adding another $65,000-$78,000 in federal funding to the town for youth drug prevention programs in 2018-2019. As of now, funds cannot be accessed while the town solicitor reviews past spending, and creates guidelines for spending going forward.

“This whole thing is outrageous,” DeNuccio said. “Between the state and the federal government, myself and the grant itself, there is plenty of oversight.”

Looking at the SPP and its community board, all members are associated with the school, Finnegan said, without elected officials represented.

“I say it was done on purpose,” Finnegan contends. “She meant to keep everything away from our elected officials.”

McCormick identified several community sectors necessary to change youth’s behavior to prevent substance abuse, including youths, parents, businesses, law enforcement, religious, civic groups, school administration and locally elected officials.

McCormick said anyone is welcome to come to a coalition meeting, usually held at the Scituate High School from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month.

Confronting allegations that she charged the grant for attendance to Town Council and School Committee meetings, McCormick said her mileage to and from meetings was charged, allowably, to denote her presence at the meeting.

She said she was fastidious in her spending, making sure each expense was allowable under the grant before charging her joint credit card, shared with husband Timothy McCormick, a Republican running for Town Council.

“When you are waiting for reimbursement approval for expenses, you make sure you are spending allowable money,” McCormick said.

Finnegan also questioned a recent trip to Florida where McCormick charged 17- or 18-hour days while School Resource Officer Richard Parenti charged only 8-hour days.

McCormick said the conference ran from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. at times, and though Parenti decided to volunteer his time, McCormick said she stayed with youth to ensure their safety during the trip.

According to McCormick, Finnegan has not reached out to her personally to ask any question or get more information regarding SPP spending.

“It’s not his job to understand it. It’s my job. I wanted the opportunity to explain the spending, but all I hear is that the matter is under investigation,” McCormick said.

The only communication McCormick receives from the town is to tell her the solicitor will contact her.

“It feels like an attack for other reasons. I’m not going to guess,” she said. “I just hope this negativity going out through the town is not going to damage the coalition.

The Scituate Democrats said they support the grant money being used for the benefit of students. In a tweet sent Oct. 6, the Democrats said transparency and accountability are essential, and they look forward to more answers.

Comments

So the federal government grants between $65,000 and $78,000 as a grant for 2017 and 2018 and Erika paid herself almost half ($30,890) of that in salary? Plus other expenses?

I think this definitely needs to be reviewed.

Tammy J. Pelletier