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Monday, January 20, 2014

Brown's Human Services Pick Has Record of Mismanagement

Public activists Diane Teti, Ken Heffentrager and Rich Fegley forced Allentown City Council to pause a moment last week and consider what the hell they are doing. Are they an urban growth regime for NIZ developers like J.B. Reilly, or do they have some other, often forgotten purpose? Like helping those in need. They were forced to stare into the face of homelessness, which for too many of us, is just a missed paycheck away.

Mayor Edwin Pawlowski, who's running for Governor, was too busy courting donors to attend a meeting of his own governing body. But Lehigh County Executive Tom Muller was there. This is where county government can make a difference because so much of its money is for human services.

Muller could have told everyone that Lehigh County helps fund a program that found housing for 2,425 people last year. It's the Hispanic American Organization (HAO), which was founded by Lupe Pearce in 1976. In some instances, it even provides rent assistance. And it's not just for Hispanics.

But a few years ago, that worthwhile organization, which does much more than help people find homes, was nearly put out of business. The person responsible for this is Allison Frantz, a Lehigh County bureaucrat who failed to do her job.

Frantz is now Northampton County Executive John Brown's pick for Director of Human Services.

Technically, she's the HealthChoices Administrator. According to Lehigh County,

"The HealthChoices Program offers medically necessary mental health and drug and alcohol services to Medical Assistance eligible children and adults. Individuals are offered a choice of providers for needed mental health or drug and alcohol treatment services. The Lehigh County HealthChoices program is managed by the Departments' Office of Human Services, which also includes the Offices of Mental Health / Intellectual Disabilitites (formerly Mental Retardation) / and Drug and Alcohol. The HealthChoices program in Lehigh County is adminstered through a subcontract with Magellan Behavioral Health."

HAO is a recipient of money administered by HealthChoices for counseling, family therapy and even nutrition awareness. Frantz, as the Administrator of this program, was required to visit funding recipients on site and explain how the program works. She was also required to monitor compliance. She did neither.  As a result, when state auditors reviewed the procedures in place, they determined that HAO had improperly billed HealthChoices to the tune of somewhere between $600,000-800,000. HAO was required to repay every cent misapplied, and nearly went under as a result.

Had Frantz been doing her job, this would never have happened. But like any good bureaucrat, she was adept at pointing fingers when her own failures were noted.

About 57 percent of Northampton County's annual $335 million spending plan, which includes grant money received from the state and federal government, is devoted to human services. This includes money spent for Gracedale, senior centers, child protection, and disadvantaged people. Over 18,000 people use these services. So you'd think the person in charge would have an understanding of their needs, and would be responsible enough to ensure that the millions allocated is being spent properly.

Allison Frantz can do neither. She's already demonstrated a complete inability to explain or monitor spending under her own program. Her knowledge of the many other aspects of human services is also very questionable.

Many in the human services field have never even heard of her. One local professional who has over three decades of experience told me he does not know her. That raises a red flag with me.

Another professional tells me, "I do not know her well. Lehigh County has had a very stand offish approach it seems when dealing with Healthchoices and so when I had concerns about things, I did not get much back. Lehigh County refuses to allow people to observe their Human Services Block Grant Process, and ... do not believe that the planning process should be open for the public to see how they plan on the distribution of public funding. I don't hold many of them in high esteem for how they handle things, with Gilgoff [the former Director] being a real disappointment. It is not the place to look to for leadership."

That's exactly where John Brown is looking.

Frantz is one of eight department heads who work under the Director of Human Services. If she has excelled in that position, why hasn't Executive Tom Muller named her as his new Director? The position is open.

Instead she's coming to Northampton County to administer a massive department with which she is mostly unfamiliar, with a proven track record for being completely unable to ensure proper accountability.

"She would be a disaster", a third human services professional told me.

If Council does not reject this nomination outright, the matter should be tabled so that they can investigate the circumstances concerning HAO.


Anonymous said...

Wow, thanks for the info Bernie. Brown is getting some real shitty advice on a lot of this stuff.


Anonymous said...

Admittedly this is a tough job to fill; however,If she is appointed ,at least assign Gracedale to the Director of Administration. She knows nothing about nursing homes and little else about aging or children and youth. She is a weak candidate.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Agreed, and for that reason, I would not want her at all. She is not qualified, and has proved herself incapable of being accountable to ensure that public funds are spent appropriately.

Anonymous said...

That is the Lehigh County easy. Gracedale must stay in Human Services. You just need a management team that understands nursing homes. Why would a DOA know more? Besides, it is a coordination of services concern that the HS Director is best suited to handle.

Her record is unfortuante and it would appear Brown is really fumbling in the dark. However, I agree that it should not be one the current staff. They are not very good at change.

Anonymous said...

In fairness Bernie. There are a couple division heads in Northampton County HS that are fighting any changes in the status quo. It is an ego thing against needed reforms.

I agree you raise serious concerns about this applicant which has been heard before. She is not ready for this role. However, be carful of your sources as a few are less concerned with a better Department and more concerned with their own little empires.

Also it is true the Gilgoff is a secretive pal of the partnership that kept too much public info under raps.
You did a good job on this one. Keep digging thee may be more to learn.

Anonymous said...

It must be in the water in Northampton County. The election and hiring of people with little experience to run the government. I guess the people have spoken. What about that youngster they hired to run Bethlehem Township? Not much experience there too and they are paying her a very high salary! More than the county executives.

Anonymous said...

So HOA misuses hundreds of thousands of dollars and it's this woman's fault? Surely HOA needs to take responsibility for their own misdeeds.

Anonymous said...

What makes you such the expert on John Brown's picks this is just about character assassination.

Anonymous said...

Exactly what were the violations at HAO that led to DPW requiring the return of state money? Isn't there a report by DPW available for review under RTK? HAO has a history of misuse of public funds. So why is that situation Frantz's fault?

Anonymous said...

HAO also over billed Northampton county, so your source is likely someone just as involved in the mess. The state intervened in that investigation and told both counties that they could not shut HAO down because there were not other Hispanic providers available to provide the services. Lehigh was much tougher on Magellan, who was the real entity responsible for monitoring HAO, as the contract was between Magellan and HAO, not with Lehigh. Magellan is now the best MCO for compliance in the state as a result of the situation.

Both counties need a human services head who is a good manager, not a social worker.

Bernie O'Hare said...

" So why is that situation Frantz's fault?"

It was her obligation to instruct HAO on the funds they were receiving and ensure compliance. She did neither. She was good at pointing fingers, though.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"So HOA misuses hundreds of thousands of dollars and it's this woman's fault? "

Yes. It was her obligation to explain the program and do some monitoring. That's her job as Administrator. She did neither.

Now you want to entrust her with millions more.

Anonymous said...

Why hasn't Executive Tom Muller named her as his new Director? The position is open.

Simple. I image she would rather be able to collect a Lehigh pension while working in Norco.

Monitoring provider contracts is an essential part of human services administration.

Anonymous said...

Gilgoff Is part of that small circle of old boys that includes Jennings,Marcus and other sell outs and suck-ups.

Anonymous said...

You don't understand the system OHafe. HAO is a behavioral health provider that specializes in bilingual services. They are approved under contract which provides clear specifications and requirements that they failed to follow. Get the DPW findings for this incident. Where did they lay blame? I doubt it was in Frantz's office. But, that's right, you base your stories on speculation and character assassination, not facts.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I do not dispute that HAO failed to follow the program. The DPW findings do not go so far as to indicate who was ultimately responsible. The fault for that lies squarely with Frantz. It was her obligation, as Administrator of Healthchoices, to both explain and monitor. She failed. Like you, she blamed everyone else for her own shortcomings. She should have been fired. Instead, Brown wants to entrust her with millions more. This is a recipe for disaster.

Anonymous said...

HAO AND the country were both at fault.

Anonymous said...

DHS includes MH, ID, early intervention, drug and alcohol, children and youth,aging and adult services, nursing homes, and veteran affairs. Is it true that the candidate at hand only has experience in one dept.? On top of that, her current employer has the exact same position open and she isn't in consideration? Add in the HAO info and there are too many red flags

Anonymous said...

Keep in mind that her Department also lost some money or was fined by DPW. The person was kicked out over it but she was sparred.

Anonymous said...

They guy was named Panto and he was the fall guy for the screw up. It was not fair.

Anonymous said...

Given what I have been told, this is a bad choice.

Anonymous said...

She is a lightweight. Unqualified for the job. Norco voters and taxpayers should be embarrassed and/or angry. Especially when they find out how someone so inexperienced could be paid so much.