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Inspector general affirms audit of nonprofit

By Greg Gelpi

An audit by the U.S. Department of Labor Inspector General's Office affirmed the audit findings of a local nonprofit educational organization.

The inspector general's investigation reiterated that Youth Empowerment Project Inc., a Riverdale-based nonprofit, diverted funds meant for job training to pay for operational expenses.

Glenn Dowell, the executive director of Youth Empowerment Project Inc., acknowledged the investigation and said that he immediately asked the FBI for an investigation when he first learned that money was mishandled. The Atlanta Regional Commission, which provided the funds, chose to launch an independent audit instead.

The diverted funds left the group owing the Georgia Department of Labor more than $160,000, but a repayment schedule was worked out, and Youth Empowerment has been making its payments, said Sam Hall, director of communications for the state Department of Labor. Hall said that Youth Empowerment, though, has asked for a restructuring of its payment schedule.

An independent audit discovered the problem, but pointed out that no money was missing, only used for purposes it was not intended for.

Dowell said the financial problems could be "traced" to his hiring of then Chief Financial Officer Gary Furlong, who he promptly terminated.

Furlong at the time said that problems came down to politics and cash flow.

The inspector general's report listed the following findings of the independent BKR Metcalf and Davis audit: "Of the initial $180,000 owed to the (Georgia Department of Labor), (Youth Empowerment) had paid $52,497 as of April 27 2004, resulting in misapplication of federal funds amounting to $127,503 due to the (Georgia Department of Labor), improper accounting procedures and controls and lack of supporting documentation."

Dowell said that Youth Empowerment has "done very good for a company that is trying to rebound." The company has reduced its staff from 26 employees to 20 since the audit, and Dowell said that Atlanta Regional Commission likely won't give Youth Empowerment any more grants.

Among those who are no longer with Youth Empowerment is his daughter, who had written grant proposals, he said. Dowell's pay has remained the same.

"We are going to continue to survive," Dowell said.

Dowell said that the money issues didn't affect the programs run by Youth Empowerment and he expects a "full house" this summer.

"As a result of these findings and contract with (Youth Empowerment) was terminated and a repayment plan was set up between (Youth Empowerment and the Georgia Department of Labor)," according to the inspector general's report. "Originally, the (Atlanta Regional Commission) did not consider it necessary to report this to (the Office of the Inspector General) because (the Georgia Department of Labor) has been working with (Youth Empowerment) on a valid repayment plan. However, upon further discussion the (Atlanta Regional Commission) reconsidered and notified the (Office of the Inspector General)."

The funds were given by the U.S. Department of Labor to the state Department of Labor and distributed to Youth Empowerment through the Atlanta Regional Commission. Clayton County also provides funding to Youth Empowerment.

The Clayton County school system has also contracted with Youth Empowerment to tutor students at North Clayton and Forest Park middle schools. Under No Child Left Behind, the school system must provide supplemental services to students at poor performing schools, and the state Department of Education lists Youth Empowerment as an approved provider of supplemental services.

The school system paid Youth Empowerment $7,652 in January for the services, which are based on a per student amount.

Since its 1993 incorporation, Dowell estimated that Youth Empowerment has helped more than 10,000 children. That number could not be readily confirmed by the paper.

Dowell also works as a liaison specialist for Atlanta City Schools, but said that the full-time job doesn't conflict with his part-time work at Youth Empowerment.

According to the IRS, Dowell paid himself $30,600 for working 20 hours a week in tax year 2002. He makes $31,200 currently.