CAPSLO soaking up nonprofit fund pool
February 7, 2013
Keeping them homeless
By KAREN VELIE, JOSH FRIEDMAN and DANIEL BLACKBURN
(Editor’s note: This is the second in a series about San Luis Obispo County Homeless Services and the nonprofits managing the program.)
For the duration of its 48-year existence, the Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo (CAPSLO) has skirted public scrutiny by assigning to itself the designation of a “private” nonprofit corporation.
That has complicated, but not completely deflected efforts to peel back the layers of CAPSLO’s funding sources and annual expenditures.
California’s Public Records Act specifies that if a private entity performs a public function, was created by a public agency whether directly or indirectly, and receives public revenues, it is considered a public body, subject to California’s openness law.
Jim Famalette, chief operating officer of CAPSLO, denied a public records request in June from local attorney Babak Naficy. Naficy, acting on behalf of a private client, had requested that CAPSLO turn over documents seeking financial details from CAPSLO regarding curious grants to a Morro Bay residence house called Roandoak of God.
Famalette’s denial read in part, “Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo is a private, non-profit corporation, not a government agency. We are required to keep all client information in confidence and cannot release such without the written consent of the client. Our files are reviewed regularly by state and federal agencies as well as our own auditors to insure we are in compliance with all guidelines and regulations of all our varied funding sources.”
By combing public documents from other sources, CalCoastNews has pieced together an emerging picture of some of CAPSLO’s complex fiscal activities. Its programs and activities are not limited to San Luis Obispo County. It has nearly 1,000 employees and operates in nine California counties: Orange, Ventura, Santa Barbara, Fresno, Kern, Monterey, San Benito, San Joaquin and Santa Cruz.
And as CAPLSO expands, county and other local government funding for other nonprofit organizations is steadily shrinking.
CAPSLO funds have increased in recent years despite a multi-year economic downturn. CAPSLO’s tax forms show that in fiscal year 2008 the nonprofit brought in $51,499,811 in total revenue. In fiscal year 2011, CAPSLO’s total revenue increased to $59,767,661.
Employees accounted for more than half of CAPSLO’s nearly $60 million in expenses, to its employees. The nonprofit, with more than 900 employees, paid out $31,479,495 in total compensation to its employees in 2011. Employee costs in 2008 totaled less than $23 million.
The agency also pays for independent contractors to do in-home child care in San Luis Obispo County. Four of their child care providers make over $100,000 a year with the highest paid $128,644.
Most of CAPSLO’s funding comes from government grants. CAPSLO received $56,388,811 in government grants in fiscal year 2011.
In comparison, Community Health Centers of the Central Coast, which offers medical, dental and mental health care for low income and uninsured residents throughout San Luis Obispo and northern Santa Barbara counties, received only $19,432,572 in government grants in fiscal year 2011.
Community Health Centers and North County Connection, which provides drug and alcohol recovery services, have suffered severe funding cuts from the county in recent years. Community Health Centers lost more than half of its county funding since Supervisor Adam Hill, first took office in January 2009. Hill has a relationship with CAPSLO executive Dee Torres, CCN has reported. Community Health Centers received $6,154,248 from the county in 2008, but only $2,783,496 in 2012.
North County Connection, which Hill described as a “racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic” organization during a 2012 board of supervisors meeting, lost nearly half of its funding as well. The county contributed $49,058 to the nonprofit in 2008, but only $27,600 in 2012.
In the same period, CAPSLO also endured a county funding cut, dropping from $4,749,254 in 2008 to $3,828,597 in 2012. But the CAPSLO funding did not drop at nearly as sharp a rate as the other local nonprofits. CAPSLO continues to receive more than $1 million more in county funds than Community Health Centers, even though Community Health Centers provides services to more people.
Much of the money the county gives to CAPSLO comes as part of a yearly grant program administered by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. Each year HUD provides three different grants as part of a program called the Urban County. The program is supposed to bolster community development, affordable housing and emergency shelters in low income areas. HUD oversees implementation of the grants based on income levels in areas of counties.
The county poverty map compiled by the planning department on behalf of HUD shows that there are six tracts, or areas, in San Luis Obispo County where more than half of the residents have low to moderate income. Yet, since the 2010 census, HUD lists the city of San Luis Obispo as the only location in the county where more than 50 percent of the residents have low to moderate income.
The county map, used in both the 2011 and 2012 Urban County Action Plans, lists the San Miguel, Shandon, Paso Robles and Oceano tracts, in addition to the two San Luis Obispo city tracts as low to moderate income areas. HUD figures, however, show that other than the city of San Luis Obispo, only the Paso Robles tract is even within 10 percentage points of having a majority low to moderate income residents.
Supervising Planner Dana Lilley, who oversees the creation of the Urban County Action Plan, placed the blame on HUD, saying the county received its income data from HUD.
Another inconsistency appeared on the 2012 action plan. The community development project titles did not match their descriptions. Several projects that did not involve CAPSLO, like sewer and water repair at a Los Osos mobile home park and operation of an Atascadero food pantry, listed CAPSLO as the recipient of the funds.
After CalCoastNews asked Lilley about the inconsistencies, county planners changed the 2012 action plan so that it no longer listed CAPSLO as the agency receiving the funds for the mismatching projects.
In 2012, San Luis Obispo County received $2,641,037 in Urban County funding. Under the umbrella of the Urban County HUD program, CAPSLO received grant money for the Maxine Lewis Homeless Shelter, the Prado Day Center and its proposed new homeless campus, as well as for community development projects ranging from teen academic parenting to minor home repair. CAPSLO also receives $10,000 annually from the county for its tattoo removal program.
Five cities in the county also participate in the HUD grant program, and four of the five dispersed gave HUD funds to CAPSLO in 2012. San Luis Obispo, which gives CAPSLO more money than any other city in the county, also makes regular practice of giving the organization general fund money on top of the grant funds.
It did so again Tuesday when the council authorized a combined total of more than $200,000 to CAPSLO in grant and general fund money. City staff recommended the council to give CAPSLO additional general fund money because CAPSLO requested more for its existing and proposed homeless shelters than HUD allows the city to allocate/give for those purposes.
Though HUD is currently dispersing less money in its Urban County program than in previous years, CAPSLO is not expected to take a cut in funding. HUD is requiring greater transparency with the projects it funds, so the county plans to issue larger grants to fewer organizations. CAPSLO would be among the organizations receiving larger grants.
Hill supported that idea at a December 2012 board hearing on the 2013 action plan.
“If we’re trying to get our administrative costs down, having less grants to administer is just one of the obvious ways to do so,” Hill said. “But, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.”
CAPSLO originated as part of the ‘60s “War on Poverty” and the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964. It now lists its activities as services to low income residents, seniors, and people dealing with daily challenges.
The act was amended a year later to facilitate the creation of offices of economic opportunity at the state level. And thus was born CAPSLO. Its programs now include Head Start, an Adult Day Services Center, Energy Services, a Senior Home Repair Program, a Utility Assistance Program, Senior Health Screening, and Forty Wonderful-Health Screening for Women.