EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

August 17, 2011

Agency head worked 15 hours per week, new documents show

By Keith Eddings

LAWRENCE — The former executive director of the region's leading anti-poverty agency worked just 15 hours a week during his last full year at the top, the man who replaced him reported in tax forms filed this week.

The report indicates Philip Laverriere was working abbreviated workdays as head of the Greater Lawrence Community Action Council well before The Eagle-Tribune observed him skipping out at noon for six weeks last winter.

Laverriere, 85, resigned on March 23, four days after the newspaper reported he was spending afternoons at the Elks Club on Andover Street while claiming to be working 40-hour weeks in federal tax documents he filed annually for the agency. He led the agency for 37 years.

This week, GLCAC's new interim executive director filed an updated round of tax documents for the agency's last fiscal year that offered what he called a "good faith estimate" of the half days Laverriere was putting in for a job that paid him up to $145,000 in salary and other compensation.

Interim Executive Director Christian Dame also indicated some frustration in arriving at the estimate.

"It is noted that the listed executive director is no longer with the agency and that the best available information was utilized in determining the average hours per week for this position," Dame said in the federal Form 990, a tax return for non-profit agencies. "The precise number of hours is unknown at the present time."

In an interview yesterday, Dame said he and his staff looked "at things like logs for time in the building, meetings he went to" in trying to determine Laverriere's workday. But he said Laverriere was not required to file a time card and may have worked at home and on weekends. Dame said he had not attempted to contact Laverriere since his resignation.

In June, Dame asked federal, state and Essex County prosecutors to consider charging his predecessor with defrauding the agency out of his services while claiming to be working a full work week on a form he filed annually for the agency with the federal Internal Revenue Service. The so-called Form 990 requires non-profits to list their best-compensated employees and the hours they work.

A woman who picked up the phone at Laverriere's Ames Street house yesterday said he was not in.

The Form 990 Dame filed Monday for GLCAC's last fiscal year also documents the extent of the shakeup at the social serve agency over the last five months, prompted by the state and federal investigations that followed the newspaper story. The state Department of Housing and Community Development found widespread mismanagement and lax fiscal controls at GLCAC and demanded three dozen reforms. The federal investigation is continuing.

The federal tax form, called a Form 990, was signed by the new executive director and prepared by a new auditor, Raymond Anstiss Jr. of Lowell, who was hired after the state demanded GLCAC break its contract with its former auditors.

The form also lists the 21 people on GLCAC's board of directors during the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2010. Resignations — including former board chairman Thomas Schiavone and treasurer Jerome Jozak — have since reduced the board to 13 members.

Also gone is Gayle Williams, who resigned as a $70,000-a-year consultant overseeing GLCAC's child care programs on May 19, after The Eagle-Tribune reported that she received the contract a few years after her husband joined the board and subsequently hired her brother and sister-in-law and provided $14,500 in tuition assistance to her daughter. Her husband, Evan Williams, resigned from the GLCAC board April 27.

The tax form also shows that revenue for the agency — including $29.2 million in state and federal grants — were largely unchanged during Laverriere's last full year as executive director, dropping just $2,313. Over the same period, fees for services dropped 34 percent, to $514,000, even as the payroll increased 8.1 percent, to $12.9 million, suggesting the agency may have paid more people to provide fewer services.

Dame said much of the increase in the payroll occurred after GLCAC received a dose of federal stimulus money.

The tax form was due six months ago, but GLCAC received two three-month extensions. It was filed with the IRS Monday, hours before the extended deadline ran out.

"Today's timely filing of IRS Form 990 is another important milestone along GLCAC's road to recovery," Dame said in a prepared statement accompanying his release of the document. "The filing of this Form, along with other important actions such as the approval and implementation of a new whistle-blower policy, the passage and implementation of other governance policies, and the commencement of an in-depth board member recruitment process, demonstrate that a new day has dawned for the GLCAC."

GLCAC provides child care, job training, nutrition counseling and other social services to 27,000 low-income people in Lawrence, Methuen and the Andovers.

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