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Summer food program investigation goes on

By Kay S. Pedrotti The apparent failure to pay some employees in the Summer Food Service Program has resulted in ‘termination of relationship’ between the city of Barnesville and April Smith Scott, an investigation by the supervising state agency providing SFSP funding and magistrate court filings for payment of debt from two SFSP employees. According to Reg Griffin, chief communications officer for Bright from the Start, a state program under the Department of Early Care and Learning, ‘A.D.Smith Community Services, 188 Mill Street, Barnesville, has participated in the SFSP from 2007 to 2016, serving 30 sites in 2016. This sponsor is currently under investigation by our Audits and Compliance Unit and, as a result of this open investigation, we cannot comment further at this time.’ In an interview with The Herald Gazette, Shani Drake of the Bright from the Start nutrition division explained that SFSP is a federally funded program serving summer meals for qualifying children through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In a grant application process, the agency obtains help from local non-profit groups to find service sites and distribute meals. Drake also said each local sponsor enters into an agreement with the agency for meal service and is reimbursed at the USDA rate for each meal served. Those organizations who wish to participate submit a ‘viability checklist’ showing the group is administratively and financially able to participate, she added. An experienced provider like A.D. Smith is not required to submit viability paperwork each year, but the annual application process determines the capability of the provider, said Drake. She added that whether the results of the current investigation of ADSCS will be made public will be determined by the agency’s legal team. When contacted by the newspaper, Scott responded with the following statement: ‘Because of my illness, I had handed the grant application over to someone else to be submitted. The submission was late and was not approved until July 20, 2016. I tried to appeal, but because the program was over, the appeal was denied. If ADSCS didn’t get paid, I couldn’t pay the employees. I know that I owe them money but I do not have the means to pay it. I appreciate that The Herald Gazette asked for my statement, because no one else did.’ Barnesville city manager Kenny Roberts said that after several conversations with Scott, the city ‘terminated its relationship’ with Scott. The E.P. Roberts Center, from which the non-profit operates, continues to be open a minimum of 40 hours per week and available for anyone in the community that wants to reserve it for community or family events, Roberts said, and the city is studying future plans for the facility. The center will remain open ‘because we have always tried to honor the legacy of Mr. E.P. Roberts, the center’s namesake, and to offer the center as a positive influence in the community.’ ’We regret that April can no longer manage the center, but she will have her non-profit to continue to help children here. This case does not in any way diminish the impact she has had on many children’s lives and the good influence of the many programs at the center,’ said Roberts. Records in the magistrate court show that James E. Lindsey has filed for $6,254, and Sherry D. Jones has filed for $5,101.50 from Scott, as pay earned for employment in the summer food program. No date has been set for a hearing on the matter, according to magistrate court officials.

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