Community Action Agency Stiffs Employees in Big Way: Another Board Asleep at the Switch

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November 15, 2011; Source: St. Louis TodayIn St. Louis, former employees of the Human Development Corporation have finally filed suit against the nonprofit, not only because they were not paid for their last weeks of work but also because, adding insult to injury, the agency also neglected to pay on other commitments—like health insurance and child support. This has landed a number of employees in immediate and serious debt.

The human toll for these oversights is significant. From the article:

Shamantolian Johnson, 41, can’t find the life insurance plan for his mother, Gwendolyn, who died in July of liver cancer after working at the nonprofit for nearly 30 years. Now he questions whether the policy even exists.

Sherry Stennis, 56, a grant specialist, owes close to $4,000 in medical bills, on top of the roughly $1,000 she is owed in pay.

And Yolanda Holmes, 40, an outreach energy assistance supervisor, owes $49,000 in medical bills after a driver ran a stop sign in St. Louis. She and her 15-year-old daughter were rushed to the hospital.

“I was thinking that insurance bill would be taken care of,” she said. Then she got a letter saying her policy ended in July. “My mouth just dropped open. According to our paycheck, we paid for that insurance.”

The agency which was functioning on a budget of $12 million annually was one of the largest in the state. It closed in August after it had stopped paying health insurance for employees in July. In September, President and CEO Ruth A. Smith resigned after charges were made that her live-in boyfriend was making $10,000 a month for maintenance and janitorial work. The agency also collected $650,000 from the state to provide energy assistance to low income residents, but never paid the money out.

The employee group now suing the agency did first try to resolve the problems with the board of directors, but, according to a spokesperson, meetings with the agency board were not helpful—”Because one thing I can say is they were pretty clueless. They kept telling us, ‘We had no idea it was this bad.’”—Ruth McCambridge