COVINGTON -- An investigation by the Secretary of State's Office of the Garden of Gethsemane Homeless Shelter earlier this year found that there was no evidence of misappropriation of funds there, as alleged by a complaint.
A former resident at the shelter submitted a complaint alleging that Executive Director Clara Lett and her family members were misappropriating money, food and clothing donated to the charity. An investigation conducted in April found that, "After thoroughly reviewing all financial records, journals, income statements, expense statements, and donor lists associated with the Rainbow Community Center d.b.a. the Garden of Gethsemane Homeless Shelter for calendar years 2010 and 2011, there was no evidence of a theft or misappropriation of funds." Financial records for 2010 and 2011 were reviewed by two investigators along with IRS 990 forms documenting income and expenses for years 2007 through 2009, according to a report dated May 7.
"All expenditures such as insurance, building maintenance and repairs, utilities, transportation costs and other services for the community center were seemingly documented well and appeared to be orderly," the report states.
The complainant also alleged that the facility was in need of structural and plumbing repairs, but no evidence was found of that, according to the report.
The report states the center is primarily funded with federal and state grants and donations from churches, businesses and individuals. Clients are required to pay $10 a day if they are able, the report states.
Food items are purchased from the Atlanta Community Food Bank or Holifield Farms at discounted rates and clients are not required to pay for food unless they want something that is not on the menu, according to the report.
Lett is the only salaried employee and is paid $1,400 monthly, according to the report. Board members have said Lett does not get paid every month due to financial constraints. They've said grants and donations have been drying up of late. Outside vendors are paid for maintenance and professional services, according to the report.
A separate report from the Department of Community Affairs, which sets requirements for shelters who seek funding administered through that agency, shows that during a May 2012 review concentrating on financial management and reimbursement processing, there were no areas of non-compliance found. A review in July 2011 of homeless verification, income documentation, service provisions and financial management found that the shelter failed to calculate housing cost share for client files, although clients are required to pay a fee based on income. The files also did not contain adequate income verification on which to calculate housing cost share. That issue has been resolved, according to John Bassett, director of the State Housing Trust for the Homeless.
"We've been out to review and there are no outstanding issues," he said.
Bassett said DCA did not receive an application from the shelter during the last round of grants. Lett has said that is because the shelter's grant writer left and the shelter is currently in need of a grant writer.
The shelter recently survived a crisis after falling more than $5,000 behind in utility payments and nearly having utilities cut off. The community and shelter board members donated enough funds to get the shelter through the holidays, but the credit with the city of Covington will run out shortly after Christmas, according to Mayor Ronnie Johnston.
Johnston has urged a reorganization of the shelter, saying there is a public perception that it is mismanaged.
Lett declined to comment for this story, saying she will save her comments for a meeting between herself, community leaders, local preachers and elected officials that will take place next week.