Coun­ties au­dit $150M spent to help dis­abled

15-year re­view will focus on De­vel­op­men­tal Path­ways

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Jen­nifer Brown

Ara­pa­hoe and Dou­glas coun­ties will au­dit the com­mu­nity agency that man­ages ben­e­fit money for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties, a re­sponse to a long­stand­ing re­quest from par­ents whose chil­dren re­ceive ser­vices.

The au­dit will focus on about $150 mil­lion in mil levy dol­lars the two coun­ties have raised for De­vel­op­men­tal Path­ways since vot­ers ap­proved the levy in 2001. The com­mu­nity-cen­tered board, one of 20 in the state, as­signs case man­agers to help peo­ple with in­tel­lec­tual and de­vel­op­men­tal dis­abil­i­ties set up ther­apy, group-home place­ment and in-home care.

Ara­pa­hoe County’s de­ci­sion to move for­ward with an au­dit is a re­ver­sal from four months ago, when Com­mis­sioner Nancy Sharpe told par­ents an au­dit was not needed. Dou­glas County com­mis­sion­ers de­cided in Oc­to­ber to pur­sue an au­dit of that county’s funds sup­port­ing the dis­abil­i­ties agency, and Ara­pa­hoe County com­mis­sion­ers then re­vis­ited their ear­lier de­ci­sion.

“It just seemed to make sense at this time,” Sharpe said last week. As in Au­gust, she said again that county of­fi­cials have no rea­son to think there has been any mis­spending. “I think they do a good job to­day. But if things come up we can im­prove, we want to do it.”

The fi­nan­cial au­dit is ex­pected to start in De­cem­ber, with a fi­nal re­port due in early 2017.

Dou­glas County has been scru­ti­niz­ing its agree­ment with De­vel­op­men­tal Path­ways over the past year, and of­fi­cials de­ter­mined they wanted more de­tail about how the mill levy funds are spent. “Were we ask­ing for the right in­for­ma­tion?” said Bar­bara Drake, deputy county man­ager. “Were we ask­ing them to keep track of the right things? It’s all tied to a sense of trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity that we are try­ing to put forth as a county.”

The key con­cern, Drake said, is that funds col­lected in Dou­glas County are serv­ing county res­i­dents with dis­abil­i­ties. “We just wanted as­sur­ance that the money was fol­low­ing the peo­ple and was go­ing in the right pro­por­tion for ser­vice de­liv­ery,” she said.

A re­cently up­dated agree­ment be­tween Dou­glas County and De­vel­op­men­tal Path­ways says 85 per­cent of funds must go to­ward pro­vid­ing ser­vices, while no more than 15 per­cent can go to­ward ad­min­is­tra­tive costs. The au­dit will pro­vide “more depth be­hind those per­cent­ages” and make sure the dis­abil­i­ties agency is prop­erly cod­ing ad­min­is­tra­tive costs ver­sus ser­vices, Drake said.

Dou­glas County of­fi­cials plan to con­tinue with reg­u­lar au­dits and in­clude more de­tailed fi­nan­cials about the dis­abil­ity agency on its web­site. “That is the ex­pec­ta­tion from tax­pay­ers — that when we col­lect tax dol­lars, we are able to show where they go,” Drake said.

Since 2001, both coun­ties have re­lied on fi­nan­cial state­ments and an an­nual re­view done by an au­di­tor hired by De­vel­op­men­tal Path­ways. Den­ver of­fi­cials did the same for years un­til the city au­di­tor scru­ti­nized Rocky Moun­tain Hu­man Ser­vices, the com­mu­nity-cen­tered board serv­ing Den­ver res­i­dents with dis­abil­i­ties. That De­cem­ber 2015 au­dit un­cov­ered mis­spending of tax money and ex­tra­or­di­nary ben­e­fits for its CEO and other em­ploy­ees.

The Den­ver au­dit brought in­creased scru­tiny to the state’s 20 dis­abil­ity boards, and the leg­is­la­ture this year passed a law re­quir­ing state au­dits of the boards ev­ery five years. But the coun­ties’ au­dit of De­vel­op­men­tal Path­ways is in­de­pen­dent of that re­quire­ment.

The au­dit­ing firm that con­tracts with Ara­pa­hoe County will han­dle the au­dit for both coun­ties, pro­duc­ing sep­a­rate, coun­tyspe­cific re­ports.The coun­ties will split the cost, which has not yet been de­ter­mined.

De­vel­op­men­tal Path­ways de­ter­mines who is el­i­gi­ble for state and fed­eral Med­i­caid dol­lars as well as the county mill levy funds. A busi­ness that Path­ways cre­ated em­ploys ther­a­pists and care­givers who are sent to fam­i­lies’ homes.

The mill levy was ap­proved by vot­ers in Ara­pa­hoe and Dou­glas coun­ties in 2001. Path­ways has re­ceived $53 mil­lion from Dou­glas County and $98 mil­lion from Ara­pa­hoe County in the past 13 years, ac­cord­ing to county of­fi­cials.

De­vel­op­men­tal Path­ways ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Me­lanie Wor­ley did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

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