LEE COMMISSIONERS: Board questions nonprofit’s work

Feb. 16, 2014 @ 05:01 AM

One regional nonprofit director will be in the hot seat Monday night during the Lee County Board of Commissioners’s meeting. 

Johnston-Lee-Harnett Community Action Executive Director Marie Watson is scheduled to discuss some concerns, which commissioners raised during a previous meeting, at 6 p.m. at the Lee County Government Center, located at 106 Hillcrest Drive.

Lee County Commissioners approved a federal community service block grant for the organization, after originally deferring action, during their last meeting. In the process, they asked Watson to answer questions posed by some members of the board. Included in Monday’s agenda is a memo from Watson to Lee County Commissioner Chairman Charlie Parks about “misleading information” presented by Lee County Commissioner Jim Womack during the last commission meeting.

“I’m not sure why our agency is being criticized by some of the commissioners but we have been assisting families in Lee County for many years, [for] which we received no funding from the county this year,” Watson wrote in the memo.

Womack countered with a follow-up email to Watson, also included in the agenda, clarifying his remarks and expressing his concern about the organization. The response mentions the STARS program, which according to the nonprofit’s audit addresses the needs of disadvantaged families and individuals — using a holistic approach in order to help them become self-sufficient.

“Some of us still have concerns about the efficacy of your organization and whether the STARS Program is making any difference in Lee County’s poverty rate, employment readiness or homelessness issues,” Womack wrote. “That is why some of us had reservations about approving continued expenditures on the STARS program without any documents to justify that approval. We do not wish for Lee County to lose federal pass-through dollars intended to serve our families. However, we are keenly interested in seeing those funds go to organizations and programs that can most effectively use them to educate, train and prepare low-income families for self sufficiency.”

Other agenda items include:

* A presentation on the Voluntary Agriculture District program.

* A request from Lee County Department of Social Services Director Brenda Potts to hire a permanent Income Maintenance Caseworker II, focused on Food and Nutrition Services, and three permanent Income Maintenance Caseworkers II, focused on Children’s Medicaid.

* Review the draft Revolving Loan Fund Program’s policies and procedures.