Homeless money guardian unlicensed

February 13, 2013

trustKeeping them homeless

By KAREN VELIE, JOSH FRIEDMAN and DANIEL BLACKBURN

(Editor’s note: This is the third in a series about San Luis Obispo County Homeless Services and the nonprofits managing the program. See Cliff Anderson’s check stubs and several Social Security records at the bottom of this story.)

Lisa Niesen serves as the head of Family Ties, a private nonprofit charged with protecting the financial interests of hundreds of homeless people in San Luis Obispo County. Most of the income that Family Ties generates goes to pay her salary.

Niesen also is a full-time county employee, serving as chief deputy public guardian and managing finances for the mentally ill and the disabled.

While she is working for the county, she doesn’t need a state license. Her work managing that money is covered by her county position. But when she is handling homeless people’s money, she is supposed to have state-required certification and license. Niesen doesn’t have those.

For years, homeless clients and case managers have complained that their money, placed in trust by the Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo (CAPSLO) with Family Ties, has been mismanaged.

Since January 1, 2009, trustees hired by individuals, or families are required to hold a valid license as a professional fiduciary, unless specifically exempt under state law. The law’s purpose is to protect the often meager resources of society’s most vulnerable people.

State law also prohibits government employees from utilizing their offices to support outside endeavors; however, Niesen lists her county government phone number as the contact for Family Ties on her nonprofit’s 990 tax return for 2010.

Local governments have not investigated the practices or the complaints of mismanagement. A lengthy investigation by CalCoastNews shows that a relationship with government officials has resulted in years of complaints of abuse being disregarded.

City and county government officials have consistently supported CAPSLO and its strategies, allegedly aimed at ending homelessness in the county. This includes case management, which consists of requiring homeless residents who utilize overnight services to give 50 to 70 percent of their income to allegedly place the client into housing that rarely or never materializes.

In 2007, a homeless woman, Sherie Rogers, sent an email to a member of the San Luis Obispo County Mental Health Board, the California Department of Corporations and San Luis Obispo City Manager Ken Hampian explaining that CAPSLO case managers require money orders to be handed in — without specifying a recipient. After Rogers moved into housing, she asked for her money orders back, only to be then denied access to the Prado Day center, she wrote in the email.

At the time, the former mental health board member, who asked to remain unidentified for fear of retaliation, told CalCoastNews she forwarded the email to numerous individuals, including CAPSLO administrators.

In the end, there was no investigation into Roger’s allegations.

“Karen Baylor (head of the mental health board) told me to leave it alone… that she (Rogers) is probably mentally ill,” the mental health board member said. “This has bothered me for years.”

When a homeless person complains of issues with CAPLSO’s case management’s handling of their money, the usual response is to claim the client is mentally ill, developmentally disabled, or an addict — and as such should not be believed.

Following CalCoastNews report about Cliff Anderson, a homeless man who questioned the way his Social Security income was handled, CAPSLO officials rebuffed the man’s claims of financial mismanagement. The officials asserted that the 69-year old Anderson is “developmentally disabled.”

Niesen’s Family Ties retains $570 monthly of Anderson’s $970 income. And while Social Security rules consider it fraud to save more than $2,000 of an SSI recipient’s money, Family Ties has retained about $20,000 of Anderson’s income under the guise it will get him into housing. Family Ties apparently cannot account for the money.

In 2011, CAPSLO placed Anderson into housing it owns for several months. During this time, Family Ties paid $335 to CAPSLO for the housing and gave Anderson a weekly check for $65, while holding on to $375 per month, records show.

While CAPSLO officials contend Anderson is not credible, he provided CalCoastNews with detailed Social Security records proving that since June 2009, he has given $41,420 to Family Ties. Anderson also saved his weekly check stubs from Family Ties, which show he is still owed more than $20,000.

Niesen said none of the accounts she manages through CAPSLO contain more than $2,000, and most have only $20 to $30. If there are issues, she contends, it is with CAPSLO’s case managers.

Similarly, CAPSLO’s administration refuses to provide any explanation about how they justify requiring people receiving SSI to save more than $2,000 of their income. Amid numerous complaints about finances, CAPSLO continues to require homeless utilizing overnight services to give a portion of their income to Family Ties.

San Luis Obispo City Council members have adamantly supported CAPLSLO’s case management and have voted to order city police to support the nonprofit’s endeavors. Officers question homeless people who are spotted on certain public streets from which CAPSLO has “barred” homeless clients from walking, riding a bike or parking a vehicle on between 4 p.m. and 8 a.m. Officers reportedly provide CAPSLO with the names of rule breakers — who are then barred from receiving social services from CAPSLO.

Further blurring the lines between local government and CAPSLO were incidences reported last summer when CAPSLO failed to respond to questions about allegations of misdeeds by CAPSLO. Instead, CAPSLO administrators falsely claimed San Luis Obispo’s Director of Public Works Derek Johnson had answered for them.

Adam Hill

Adam Hill

The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors has one member who sits on the CAPLSO board and another who dates CAPSLO’s Homeless Services Coordinator Dee Torres. CAPSLO receives almost $57 million a year in government grants and funding, a large portion of which requires supervisors’ approval.

In a related situation, Torres’ boyfriend, Supervisor Adam Hill, has been using his elected position to bully advertisers and supporters of CalCoastNews in a campaign to cripple the website. Hill’s war against CCN began several years ago after he learned CCN was investigating allegations of misdeeds by CAPSLO’s homeless services, administered by his girlfriend.

In several instances, Hill’s own emails obtained by CCN have led to cancellations of contracts with businesses advertising on the news website. Hill sent emails to advertisers claiming that CCN reporters have committed crimes. That was followed by a flurry of emails from Hill to county residents asking that they not support CCN advertisers.

 

Social Security records:

Cliff Anderson’s check stubs from Family Ties and Social Security records showing Family Ties is the payee for Anderson. A record of second social security benefits of Anderson’s that goes to Family Ties and a listing of his SSI payments. Family Ties receives two checks each month from Anderson’s Social Security benefits; a monthly SSI payment and a regular Social Security benefit.

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Keeping Them Homeless, the series.


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bmax

It seems that many of you have been taken in by Velie’s faux reporting. Can’t you see that this is Velie’s personal vendetta against Adam Hill? Why is his photo in this story for god’s sake? Why is it that at every possible occasion Velie says “Dee Torres, Hill’s girlfriend” or “Adam Hill, Torres’ boyfriend”? (What adults even use the terms “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” anymore? Geez). Prove their association has caused unlawful behavior or try being an adult.


This story has proved nothing. While I’m not surprised by Velie’s comments, I am forever disappointed in Dan Blackburn. Gotta go after the “bad guys” who tried to shut your little operation down?


CAPSLO has done amazing work in our community; I am a particular fan of the Health Services Division, which has helped more low-income people than any organization I can think of. If there have been errors in reporting, then CAPSLO should fix them. But, to create this brouhaha against a hard-working, passionate, and successful long-running non-profit, is yellow journalism at its finest.


I was very pleased with Velie’s initial work; SLO definitely needs investigative journalism. But, she no longer does investigative work. She does vendetta and stupid: “Our Stupidvisor Gibson”–had to remove that, eh? And, why would CCN put a photo of Biz Steinberg together with Gibson? Guilt by association? And, how about that enlightening story, “Catholics practice sado-masochism.”


I wish that CCN came out in print. Then, it could be housed next to The Enquirer–where it belongs.


r0y

I’m willing to bet that even YOU don’t believe the crap you just spewed.


I read this story and examined the provided documents… seems like Velie has her ducks in order, whereas Hill is a pertinent part of the story BECAUSE of his personal/intimate relationship with Torres.


Maybe I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt with my first line; or you see the crash and burn coming and it might personally effect you?


bmax

Wrong, rOy. I have absolutely NO association with CAPSLO. That’s what you folks always think: that people only speak out when it affects (check your spelling) them. Unlike you, apparently, some of us speak out when wrong is wrong and for no other reason.


PaulJones

Are you telling me that you don’t see anything wrong with the fact that $20K of a homeless man’s money is unaccounted for? Sure just skip past that and make it personal, why don’t you? Also forget about all the harassment and behind the scenes bullying that has been directed at CCN by Adam Hill and his henchmen because of this investigation. You’re indeed a hypocrite.


cheseburger

Bimax go soak your stupid head in a bucket they are thick as thieves get!


givemeabreak

You OBVIOUSLY work for the county and are on the dole. BMAX


Jorge Estrada

This is a big eye opener to me, I thought only lawyers were required to have a license to steal.


r0y

Have you never voted or paid attention to politics? ;-)


Dexter

I just examined the “Family Ties” 2010 IRS form 990 that is available on Guidestar


I’m stunned and here are some of my observations:


Niesen lists herself as the president of the nonprofit working 10 hours a week. Does that involve her hours working for the County too?


The 990 records the organizations “primary exempt purpose” as:

“an organization approved by the social security administration to act as designated payee for individuals eligible to receive SSA benefits, but who have been deemed unable to manage their funds due to their disability or mental disease”


The 990 also records the “statement of program service accomplishments” as:

“Responsible and safe management of the social security benefits of those entrusted to the organization’s care. The organization improves the quality of life of these individuals by assuring that their monthly expenses are met and financial resources are protected.”


Taking these statements into consideration, here are the raw numbers recorded on the 990 related to revenues and expenses:


Program service revenue including government fees and contracts – $28, 193.00


Salaries, other compensation and employee benefits – $19,008.00 (paid to Niesen)


expense ( printing, publication, postage and shipping) – $1,342.00

other expenses :

advertising and promotion 310.00

bank fees 21.00

bookkeeping 1,315.00

fee reimbursement 1,340.00

insurance 909.00

license and permits 30.00

office expenses 1,266.00

outside services 290.00

professional 448.00

telephone 1,567.00

travel 224.00

Total 7,720.00


There is nothing on this 990 to reflect that the people who have entrusted their SS benefits have received a dime from “Family Ties” thus one must question who they are receiving monies from? The County? CAPSLO?


If the numbers on the 990 are accurate then of the revenues received ($28,193.00) a stunning 67.4% was diverted to Niesen’s salary and benefits. Roughly 32% of the revenues went to expenses. It appears not a dime was spent on program services for those who have entrusted their SSA benefits.


The 990 also reflect two other names. Deborah Jett is listed as Vice President and Jana Hanson as CFO but no indication that a board of directors oversees this organization. Who are these other people?


Two probable scenarios exist here: 1) Thievery/embezzlement and/or 2) Gross ineptness


SLOBIRD

Jana Hanson is a Internal Medical Doctor at Fench!


Cindy

Dexter, the funds received on behalf of the homeless aren’t considered revenue or income and the payments that are made on behalf of the clients or monies refunded to the clients aren’t considered expenses.


We have no idea how much they take in through payments on behalf of the clients. What we need is an audit of Family Ties Balance Sheet accounts, particularly the trust funds.


slocalocal

Here’s a couple of questions;

Office expense $1266, is this paid to the county to reimburse US for the use of the county office where this business is supposed to be located?

Telephone $1567, is this also reimbursement to the county since the number for Family Ties is the same as her county number?


I’m sure there is some way to find out. Hmmmm


SLOBIRD

What,,, She uses the County phone number for private business which is the same category of work as the County job. Is this legal? Is this not a conflict of interest? So the County has an accepted policy of running a private business while being paid for full time County employment? Really??? Sign me up, I will get on the County dole, great pay and benefits, and conduct my private business at the expense of the taxpayers. Way to go! Where can I sign up for this deal… I need to know!!!!!!!!


cheseburger

You get to watch porn on the clock too!


Cindy

slocalocal, I seriously doubt that she is reimbursing the county $1266 a year for a portion of her office space. I rather suspect that she is writing off a home office. As for the phone, it would have to be her private cell phone that is costing that sort of money. I call anywhere in the US, anytime for a flat 19.99 a month from my land line and she did list her county office land line as her contact line for Family Ties.


Go Figure…….. Sounds like everybody is getting ripped off and the county has allowed this. Likewise CAPSLO has forced the homeless to support this illegal “so called agency”. I knew something was seriously wrong when I initially read that Neisen denied being the payee on Andersen and then denied that she denied it.


It will take the SSA to investigate this agency as only they (SSA) know how many individuals that Family Ties has been and still is the payee on. There is always a paper trail in a case like this, doesn’t matter how much someone shreds. The banks have the records of every check FT wrote and SSA has a record of every check they sent on behalf of payees.


givemeabreak

THIEVES……or a THIEF…follow the dots.


taxpayer

What is Lisa Niesen’s salary+benefits while working for the County? What is Lisa Niesen’s income from Family Ties? What are her qualifications for handling other people’s money? Who hired her and when?


HarryMalone

“Homeless Money Guardian Unlicensed” Should read “Homeless Money Guardian Unethical”


heybobareebob

Excellent muckraking! Good job on gathering the supporting documents and presenting them logically.

The very simple response from Family Ties, as the fiduciary, is to simply show Mr. Anderson his account since day one. Saying that they don’t have that seems to be a breech of fiduciary trust. Lincoln Steffens would be proud of you. Keep looking under the rocks in the swamp.


MaryMalone

QUOTING HEYBOB…: “Saying that they don’t have that seems to be a breech of fiduciary trust.”


I’d call it “shredding the records,” which is what I believe has been going on madly at these fraudulent homeless services groups since the CCN started asking questions.


Kevin Rice

I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Cliff Anderson last week. I found him to be warm, friendly, and entirely lucid and enjoyable.


myword

PLEASE City Council, Supervisors, City Leaders DO NOT circle the wagons and protect your own. Ask for a full investigation of CAPSLO/FAMILY TIES. Don’t appear to do right – do right.


It will be remembered.


r0y

I think you’re asking them to throw themselves onto their swords… doubt they’ll go down without a fight. (unless we can get one or two to flip and rat out the rest).


cheseburger

Just like James Hurst MIller, where is that rat now and his daughter Courtney Brard I need an address on her, she will be served next date June 12, 2013, I will never give up. Any body know???? Please if your afraid to post it and I wouldn’t blame you email Karen she will forward it to me! Thanks


SLOBIRD

This whole story is so wrong on so many levels. How can Lisa Niesen be the only employ of Family Ties and yet work full time for the County of SLO. Is the County paying her salary for SLOCAPS? This organization is so embedded with the County that it is amazing that CCN has been able to get any information of these operations.


Another great story by CCN, thank you!


kayaknut

It’s called double dipping and city and county employees are experts at it……


SanSimeonSam

They have the time to double dip….they dont do anything as county or city employees. And why not cheat the taxpayers After all they have to wait until they are 50 in order to retire and get 90% of their salary as a pension…..For you nay sayers to this remember Deb Linden our Police Chief who left at 50 (on her birthday) at 90% over 200K a year……and that fire chief who died, only worked 4 years here but was getting 180K from his retirement in southern california and then Mayor Marx arranges for another 5000 a month to the widow because, well i am not sure why….maybe for a kick back or maybe because 180K a year is tough to live on…


MaryMalone

I wonder how many clients Family Ties serves? If Lisa Niesen is the only employee, and she worked 10 hours/week for Mr. Anderson alone, there could be, reasonably be or two other homeless people she served.


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