BRADENTON, Fla. - The leadership of the Manatee County YMCA held a press conference Saturday morning to address an audit by Manatee County government that says the YMCA defrauded tax payers of thousands of dollars by providing false information to support funding.
“I felt like the seriousness of the charges required an immediate response, that the community needed to hear from their YMCA,” said Manatee County YMCA CEO Sean Allison.
Allison led the press conference flanked by the YMCA's chairman of the board of directors and legal council to address concerns raised by a Manatee County government audit that says the YMCA created and submitted false information to receive over $175,000 of tax payer money.
“Our own internal investigation also showed flaws in our documentation in our paperwork processes” said Allison adding that they have taken steps to correct the problem by retraining staff and the termination of one employee who intentionally created false documents.
“Documents could have been flawed but what isn’t flawed is our character and our commitment to the community,” said Allison.
“What we really want everyone to understand is the programs occurred. The children the families that were affected by these programs were served and they were served to very great affect,” said the chairman of the Y's board of directors, Joey Brannon.
A large group of supporters were at Pride Park in a show of support. Manny Colon said the YMCA and Jerry Parrish have made a big difference in his life.
“It kept me out the streets and doing stuff that I wasn’t supposed to be doing,” Colon told ABC7.
The audit found discrepancies in the gang prevention program run by the Youth at Risk Director, Jerry Parrish. Parrish tells ABC7 he would not have done anything different and is looking at the bright side of this whole issue.
“It is going to bring attention to helping kids and getting them off the street, getting them in college, getting them in high school. We have done a lot, gotten a lot of kids jobs.”
The YMCA's attorney Shawn Arnold told the crowd to this point they have only found a documentation issue.
“The word fraud has been used from the county to state what happen here. If the board finds evidence of that has occurred it will take action but to this point what we have is a documentation issue.”
Arnold said they would repay the money given to the Manatee YMCA through the grant if the county shows they did not abide by the agreement of the grant contract.
Allison said the YMCA has decided to conduct their own audit every two years to ensure a problem like this does not occur in the future.