TV-6 Investigates: Partners In Job Training Office Labeled High - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

TV-6 Investigates: Partners In Job Training Office Labeled High Risk

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High risk, that's what the State of Illinois is calling the local Partners In Job Training office.

The office is supposed to help people in Henry, Rock Island and Mercer Counties learn new skills after being laid off.

Now, the state says the agency isn't using tax dollars the way it should.

The Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity says it's not spending enough on training, not keeping proper receipts for expenses, and not monitoring to make sure the money goes where it should.

Partners in Job Training has been under a lot of scrutiny in the last six months.

The state issued an audit in July finding 11 separate problems the Partners In Job Training office needed to fix.

The big ones:

Executive Director Mark Lohman appeared to have been paid twice for some work.

Proper receipts were not always kept, and there was inadequate oversight.

Last month, three former employees filed a lawsuit, claiming they were fired for blowing the whistle.

Now, the state says it put the office under high risk status because there are even more issues to be worked out.

"It's very unusual for us to send out a high risk letter," says DCEO spokesman Dave Roeder.

With less than 40 percent of money being spent on training, a lack of receipts, and a need for stronger separation of duties within the agency, Roeder says Partners In Job Training has more work to do.

"We have a number of issues that we still feel need to be acted upon," says Roeder.

"We got these all corrected, every one of 'em, they were corrected in a letter dated October 18," says board chairman Mark Evans.

He says he was dumbfounded by the letter. It requires the agency to send bank receipts, travel expense vouchers, and Lohman's time sheets to the state. Partners In Job Training already did so after the summer audit. The state also wants the agency to work with an outside auditing firm to get the training dollar requirement met.

"My understanding is that we've always met that goal, it has never been an issue," says Evans.

Illinois continues to press for more separation between jobs in the Partners In Job Training office, because of Lohman's salary overpayment of $15,000. Rock Island County already paid the money back, but board chairman Phil Banaszek says it wasn't double pay. He says the county was simply following Lohman's contract signed before Banaszek became chairman.

"It was our understanding that all these scheduled payments would be made and then he would become a full time employee," says Banaszek.

Evans says his board is conducting more oversight because of the issues raised by the audit.

"We now on a quarterly basis get a copy of every check, written right off the general ledger and we review each and look at them for something that could, look different," says Evans.

Before the audit, Evans says there were already checks and balances in place. Employees issuing the checks were not the ones signing them. Now, the agency has to submit reports to the state for at least the rest of this year.

"This stuff takes us away from our mission, our mission is to help train people. You have to have safety and soundness, don't get me wrong, but these things are going to take more steps, more labor, it's going to take us away from what we do best," says Evans.

Illinois says if Partners In Job Training can't satisfy the state's requirements it has several tools to punish it.

It can withhold any grant funding it hasn't issued.

It can deny the agency from getting any new grants.

It can also force the agency to pay back previously spent money.

TV-6 did reach out to executive director Mark Lohman Monday afternoon.

He told us he couldn't comment on the high risk status because of the pending whistle blower lawsuit.

A court hearing on the lawsuit is scheduled in May.