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The county auditor said all the money for duplicate invoices and unalloyed expenses have been recovered.

PMG FILE PHOTO - The Safe Rest Village in Multnomah Village when it was previpusly under construction.A Multnomah County auditor investigation revealed that a contractor was overpaid by more than half a million dollars to manage approved homeless camps by the Joint Office of Homeless Services.

Multnomah County Auditor Jennifer McGuirk said the Joint Office approved $525,228 in unallowable costs to All Good Northwest, a group contracted by the Joint Office for alternative shelters, like Safe Rest Villages.

The investigation, spurred by a Good Government Hotline tip, found that AGNW overbilled the county $331,553, mostly in personal expenses, by duplicating payroll expenses over separate invoices. Additionally, the report claims the county also approved $193,675 in unallowable indirect expenses, or administrative costs, after the office incorrectly told the group they could bill the county.

While the auditor said the money has been recouped, McGuirk added that the new group was "essentially a county-funded start up" with little experience and should have been watched more closely.

"AGNW was essentially a county-funded start-up. It did not exist as an operational organization until the Joint Office contracted with it to operate alternative shelter programs. Because of this, it did not have any established funding or cash flow to support operations. It appears that AGNW's overbilling errors stemmed, at least in part, from cash flow issues within the organization due to its 100% reliance on county funding," the report said.

The auditor added "at the time of this report, all of AGNW's funding has come from the county, which indicates that the Joint Office should have been more closely monitoring AGNW's invoicing from the beginning. We identified that the Joint Office knew AGNW was new and was 100% reliant on county funding but did not provide the level of fiscal monitoring/oversight that is essential in these circumstances."

All Good Multnomah runs the runs the BIPOC Village on Northeast Weidler Street, the Queer Affinity Village on Southwest Naito Parkway near the International School of Portland, the Multnomah Safe Rest Village on Southwest Multnomah Boulevard, and the Market Street Shelter.

The report also provided recommendations for the Joint Office moving forward, including that the county should not give 100% funding to an organization, unless the organization goes through a risk assessment. It also recommends detailed monitoring of invoices by Joint Office staff.

In response to the report, the Joint Office said "the Joint Office of Homeless Services (JOHS) appreciates the work of the County Auditor in following up on the original hotline call and producing this report. We would also like to highlight that upon closing her review, the Auditor concluded that not a single dollar was ultimately lost."

JOHS added "we are grateful to the Auditor's Office for alerting us, and we are satisfied with the swift resolution of the issue — due in part to work that was already underway at JOHS to improve our contracting systems. Those improvements, which we have proactively pursued as a necessary step to transforming a small office into a large County department, helpfully align with many of the Auditor's recommendations."

JOHS interim director Shannon Singleton released the following statement to KOIN 6 News:

"I want to be clear that no taxpayer money was lost — a key finding in the report. I am grateful to the Auditor's Office for alerting us, and I am grateful that we have such a solid team at the Joint Office that they were able to respond immediately.

"That response was possible and easier because the Joint Office had already been making substantial improvements in its administrative, fiscal and contract oversight practices, before this report was initiated. That proactive and important work helpfully dovetails with many of the Auditor's recommendations.

"But we have to remember that as we are trying new things to end homelessness, and moving fast, sometimes, we are going to move too fast. And that's exactly what happened here.

"I don't fault our staff or the provider, who I know are all dedicated to serving our community and being good stewards of public resources.

"We learned and — as always — we continue to build more processes into our system to ensure that we are delivering as many services as possible to meet the crisis, while also being good stewards of public resources. It's a hard balance to strike in the middle of multiple crises, but one we take very seriously."

Hollie Miller, the director of finance who doubles as the head of human resources at All Good Northwest, explained the situation was caused by rapid expansion. The group was formed in February 2021 as a spin-off of Do Good Multnomah, which serves military veterans. All Good NW got its first contract in October 2021 and then doubled its staff to 100 in March 2022 when it took on managing a congregate shelter at Southeast Market Street and Second Avenue. With no capital or investors, the nonprofit had to pay people working in the field, such as case managers and frontline staff, by billing the JOHS in advance. "My stress level is one tenth of what it was, because we received a capacity building funds investment from JOHS. Since July 1, 2022, we are now able to properly bill for administrative expenses via the 10 percent indirect fee." This includes administrative wages, office rent or saving for a new vehicle.

KOIN 6 News is a news partner of the Pamplin Media Group. Joseph Gallivan contributed to this story,

KOIN 6 News is a news partner of the Pamplin Media Group.


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