MCAG seeks to subcontract homeless program

rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.comJune 22, 2013 

The Merced County Association of Governments announced it found someone to run the Continuum of Care program, but members of that group say the process was not transparent.

"They act like they're not accountable to anybody and they can make decisions without asking anyone," said Renee Davenport, member of the Continuum of Care executive board.

Davenport said MCAG officials in recent months refused or frequently canceled meetings with the continuum to discuss the issue. Then they identified someone to take over the program without consulting the continuum's executive board or notifying members, she said.

The Continuum of Care program, which deals with issues of homelessness, is the only way local nonprofits can receive state or federal funding. The continuum is made up of volunteers, grantees and nonprofit agencies.

Since 2003, MCAG has assisted with applying for federal grants for homeless programs — but the process became too cumbersome, said MCAG spokeswoman Lori Flanders.

MCAG officials began looking for another group to run the program.

"We wanted to get out of this middleman role," said MCAG Executive Director Marjie Kirn during a meeting last week. "I cannot use staff to do this work."

MCAG staff on Thursday recommended subcontracting the Continuum of Care program to Jeanette Garcia — an administrative analyst and MCAG employee. Garcia, who's familiar with homeless grant requirements, is set to resign from her MCAG job next month.

Garcia's compensation would be $78,000 a year, the same amount MCAG received. Merced County will contribute $40,000, and the city of Merced $38,000.

As part of the contract, Garcia would get technical assistance from Urban Initiatives, a group from Southern California. That group would be paid from her $78,000 allocation.

Davenport said Garcia's qualifications are not the issue — it's the way the situation was handled by MCAG.

"Nobody (in the continuum) was consulted about it," Davenport said. "I don't have a problem with Jeannette doing it, but I have a problem with the way they do these things."

Davenport said MCAG didn't give other agencies the opportunity to bid for the contract, before it recommended giving it to Garcia.

Amid the criticism, MCAG's governing board voted Thursday to hold off on the subcontract until its next meeting in July. A public workshop to discuss the issue will be held 2 p.m. on July 9 at the Sam Pipes Room in Merced City Hall, 678 W. 18th St.

In February, Flanders said, MCAG had "internal talks" with Merced County and the city of Merced — but neither agency agreed to take on the program. In May, the group posted a "request for interest" announcement on the city, county and MCAG websites. It ran for 10 days, Flanders said.

MCAG officials also sent an e-mail looking for someone to take over the program to more than 100 contacts.

"We've tried to be as open as possible in letting them know," Flanders said. "We did communicate. Every time we had information about where things were going, we let the continuum know."

Meetings with the continuum were not held because of budgetary constraints, she added.

The Rev. Fred Risard, a Continuum of Care member, said the relationship with MCAG was never a good one, but it's gotten worse because of the contract.

"MCAG decided what the contract will look like without consulting with Continuum of Care," Risard said. "They informed us a few days before the meeting that they decided to award a contract to Jeannette Garcia."

Merced Sun-Star is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service