Family first

State auditors hit a Dallas anti-poverty agency over nepotism and allegations of waste

In the latest round of board squabbling, the panel voted last week to oust member Khaleef Rasad Hasan, who was appointed last year by Dallas City Councilman Al Lipscomb.

Hasan was "disruptive and rude," Givens says, and the board voted to ask Lipscomb to appoint another member.

"It's unbelievable," says Hasan. "I thought Sims was a brilliant lady, but when I started digging and asking questions, the whole relationship changed."

The 21-member board--made up of members appointed by public officials and private and community groups--had numerous vacancies at the beginning of 1997. The state alleges the board nevertheless held meetings and conducted business without a quorum.

Among other items questioned in the audit are $4,200 in cellular phone bills Sims ran up last year, charges the state deemed "excessive unless they can be justified." Sims says that she is reviewing those charges, and that perhaps $100 were personal calls she intends to reimburse.

Hunter and four other agency employees also were provided cellular phones, and their charges were paid with federal money, the audit found. Long-running collect phone calls from the same phone numbers also were found on the agency's phone bill.

Also, the DCCAC listed expenditures of $9,792 in 1996 and $7,970 in 1997 for fundraising, but the state couldn't find any evidence of the proceeds going back into the coffers. Sims says the account was used for the agency's annual banquet, which raises no funds.

The audit also turned up what appear to be instances of sloppy management, but Sims insists those appearances are deceiving.

DCCAC paid more than $4,000 in bounced-check charges in 1996 and the first four months of 1997, and $6,084 in penalties and fines, the audit found.

Sims and assistant finance director Wright say the bounced-check charges accrued because the state has been as much as three months late in sending grant checks.

"The only time we had any returned checks was when the state told us the money was on the way, and a week later we're still looking for it," Wright says.

Dallas Observer intern Rebeca Rodriguez contributed to this story.

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