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Saturday, July 18, 2015

Section III- Federal and State Award Finding and Questioned Costs. 8-2014- Material Weakness

(Taken directly from the audit; items in parentheses are my own statements.) Section III: Federal and State Award Finding and Questioned Costs
8-2014 Material Weakness
Program: Operation Stonegarden Grant; CFDA Number 97.067
Criteria: Federally funded gent agreements require there be no conflicts of interest.
Condition: An employee of the County is listed in the administrative chain of command for a federally funded grant and has awarded the opportunity for grant funds to a sub-recipient separate entity for which the individual is also in charge.
Questioned Costs: The sub-recipient separate entity received $64,871 in federal funding.
Context: Material disbursement for the Operation Stonegarden grant were inspected of which one invoice totaled $22,626. Once the conflict of interest was discovered all invoices to the sub-recipient separate entity were inspected for fraud and abuse.
Cause: A conflict of interest policy and procedure has not been established by the County.
Effect: Potential abuse of Federal funds can occur that could cause a potential liability for the County if untreated.
Recommendation: A conflict of interest policy and procedure should be established that requires key employees to report potential conflicts of interest on an annual recurring basis.
(There's so much more to this, much of it outside the scope of this audit, that is difficult to explain and is being obfuscated by the individual referred to in the document, who is Joel Nunez, Jr., Chief Deputy for the Sheriff's Office and Police Chief for the Presidio I.S.D. Police dept. I will certainly leave much out, but the general overview reads as follows: PISD has a police force which, by its nature, is not eligible on its own for Homeland Security grants. A provision within the Stonegarden grant allows for a group of "friendly forces" which may apply for reimbursement of allowable costs THROUGH THE COUNTY. What that means in this case is that PISD spends funds, does paperwork, and applies for reimbursement through the County's grant. If the process is flawed, the County faces the liability. In this case, Mr Nunez is also the grant administrator on behalf of the County, is a beneficiary of the grant through the overtime he receives, both with the Sheriff's Office and PISD-DPS, is in control of awarding this benefits through his position as PISD-DPS chief, and is also listed in the administrative chain of command as a County Official, which he is in eligible to do. This setup has been well-known by all local parties, and is in violation of the grant requirements, and of the U.S. Criminal Conflicts of Interest statute 18,USC 208, which prohibits an employee from participating personally and substantially, in any official capacity, in any "particular matter" that would have a direct and predictable effect on the employee' own financial interests or on the financial interests of an organization in which the employee serves as an employee. A "particular matter" is virtually any government matter to which an employee might be assigned, including policy matters and matters involving specific parties, such as contracts or grants. Recusal is mandatory in the circumstances specific in the statute.
Not only this, but numerous times Mr. Nunez has claimed overtime reimbursements for himself during the same pay period in both entities, up to 20 hours of overtime for each one, I have learned. That would mean working, on a regular basis, well over 100 hours per week between the 2 jobs. The authorization for the PISD time sheets comes from himself. The Sheriff authorizes his County overtime. Also, Mr Nunez claimed overtime for five PISD-DPS "employees", including Sheriff Dominguez's brother Joe Dominguez, who were never contracted or employed in any way by PISD. Emails to PISD administration from the County Treasurer's office, which has to face paying back over $64,000 of, in the auditor's words in a separate part of the audit report, "Fraudulent charges" regarding this matter are now not being returned by order of the PISD CHIEF OF POLICE, as he claims the information is PISD's alone, despite the County being the grant holder and custodian of the grant liability. There is even more to this story, but that's enough for now. I'll have a re-cap and synopsis of this whole audit and everything I feel is related to it up by the end of July. It's going to take a while for me to figure out how to voice it without fearing for severe retaliation from certain people in power. You can do the math on that, for sure.)

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