The Massachusetts Auditor is criticizing a prominent Springfield-based nonprofit. A new report charges the New England Farmworkers’ Council of improperly using more than $700,000 dollars in state money.
The nonprofit provides job training, day care and other services to low-income residents using a variety of state programs and contracts. State auditor Suzanne Bump says her office became concerned when it realized the council’s board included people connected with its umbrella organization, Partners for Community.
“There is a tendency for the relationships among these legally related parties to be somewhat incestuous,” Bump says, “and so the business between them would not be conducted at arms length. in order to ensure that the commonwealth gets its best value.”
The report says that almost half a million dollars in salary payments to CEO Heriberto Flores went over the state’s limits. It also claims that some travel, consulting and other expenses were not properly documented. In a statement, Flores notes the disputed money amounts to less than one percent of the council’s total budget over those three years. And he says the group used non-state funds to pay for what should have been state expenses, so it has nothing to repay. Bump says another state agency will decide that issue.