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JCCEO employee speaks out after mass termination

Published: Nov. 24, 2021 at 11:05 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 25, 2021 at 6:39 AM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Another Jefferson County Committee for Economic Opportunity employee spoke out after learning they would likely be out of a job. The news came the day before Thanksgiving.

The organization announced Wednesday that they were giving back millions in grant money and didn’t have the funds to continue operations. The JCCEO board chair told WBRC 500 employees would get pink slips in the mail.

“How are we going to feed our families? You’re giving us this the day before Thanksgiving,” a JCCEO Head Start employee asked.

Frustrated and in shock, the JCCEO Head Start employee wanted to remain anonymous because they didn’t want speaking out to affect their ability to find employment. Unable to file for unemployment until they get official termination papers, which the employee said were expected the following week, the employee quickly got to work, looking for work.

The Head Start program was taken over by a temporary company called CDI. CDI told workers on a phone conference call Wednesday afternoon that they could reapply for their jobs, but there was no guarantee they’d get their jobs back.

OHS Interim Management is operated by CDI Head Start. In operating more than 220 OHS Interim Managed programs across the country, CDI Head Start has worked with thousands of employees, vendors and contractors successfully cultivating community partnerships and relationships.

“I’m not really planning on applying back with them because I don’t know if they apply with that company, and they lose it, and we have to find something else. Right now, I’m just on Indeed looking for something else,” the employee sighed.

Even with the trouble they faced caring for their own family, the employee said the students and parents left behind is what hurt the most.

“Do you know how hard it is to get child care,” they asked.

The employee said they had more concerns that the paycheck they were expecting the following Friday would arrive.

To save the program, JCCEO board chair Gary Richardson said the agency needed Birmingham and Jefferson County to supply funding of $1.5 million each. But elected officials told WBRC they were hesitant to help without full financial disclosure.

“I’ve heard a couple of comments from a couple of County commissioners. I want to say to them that the people of this county bailed them out, the County commission, when corruption took place down there. When 27 people connected to the organization got indicted or went to jail, and the people of Jefferson County are still bailing them out through 40 years of rate hikes on our sewer bill,” Richardson said. “So, don’t give me the righteous indignation about what has happened about what has happened recently here at JCCEO.”

Richardson said JCCEO was putting measures in place to prevent the issue from coming up again.

“We’re getting rid of any and everybody associated with, we believe, what has been inappropriate spending. We’re putting in safeguards now to ensure that this will never happen again. One safeguard that we have put in is the CFO now reports directly to the board and the hiring or firing of the CFO it will become under the control of the board. That way, an Executive Director could not collude with a CFO and hide the financial condition of this agency,” Richardson explained.

Richardson said JCCEO had filed formal requests to the city and county for funding but at the time this article was written he said they had not heard back.

Richardson said the organization faced a $3 million deficit that they were blindsided by. Richardson accused the former Executive Director Sharon Myles of giving the board false financial documents. Myles has denied any wrongdoing.

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