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GovWatch: Housing authority sues former employee

An internal investigation into pay practices at the Dayton region’s housing authority has sparked a drumbeat of controversy at the agency in recent years, after that internal audit was discovered in an I-Team investigation.

Now, roughly two years and three CEOs later, the agency is suing one of the employees whose pay started the whole thing.

Greater Dayton Premier Management last month filed suit in Dayton Municipal Court against Mary Kosik. The lawsuit claims $6,500 in tuition reimbursement she allegedly received and was supposed to pay back when she quit her job in March.

Actually, it says she received $29,390 to pay for classes at the University of Phoenix from 2010 through 2013 with the understanding she would pay it back if she didn’t work at GDPM four more years. When she quit and paid none of it back, the agency says it was able to withhold $22,889 she would have received in vacation payout. This left $6,500 unpaid.

Payroll records from GDPM show Kosik’s vacation payout was for 718 hours of accrued vacation at $44.30 per hour, minus $8,917 in taxes.

Kosik, who was hired by agency in 1989, could not be reached for comment.

Pay raises and vacation time payouts to Kosik were questioned in an internal review by then-agency Human Resources Director Karen Boneske in 2011. Boneske was later terminated — she claims she lost her job because she conducted the internal audit — then was paid $50,000 to settle a wrongful termination lawsuit last year.

The agency currently is headed by interim CEO Jeff Rieck, who is trying to improve its image while the agency awaits word from the federal government on whether it can re-hire a former boardmember to take his job.

Rieck recently announced that GDPMs books are in order, according to a recent award from the state auditor saying the agency had a clean audit last year.

“We’re proud of our diligent and conscientious employees and believe this award is a significant recognition of their efforts,” Rieck said.

Scrutiny for charters

Government officials are taking action on another I-Team staple: charter schools.

The Ohio Department of Education recently warned three charter school sponsors — all in southwest Ohio — that they will be shut down if they proceed with plans to open six charter schools this year.

The state alleges:

• Kids Count of Dayton wanted to let a man open a school despite owing the state $65,000 for another school that closed last year shortly after opening.

• The Warren County Educational Service Center wanted to open three schools for 175 students each without any market research and using financials identical to the Olympus schools that collapsed last year weeks after opening after charging the state $1.2 million.

• Cincinnati-based Education Resource Consultants of Ohio tried to “recycle” a school that closed for failing to meet academic requirements. ERCO wanted to use the same superintendent, governing authority and location.

The I-Team has reported on audit findings against a school sponsored by Kids Count of Dayton, and about how the founders of the Olympus schools were forced to step down from another charter school because of budget shortfalls and nepotism concerns.

An I-Team investigation last summer found that school sponsors receive millions of dollars from the schools they are supposed to oversee, often with rules that create conflicts of interest.

Our review found ERCO had one of the highest failure rates of sponsors in the state, including overseeing seven charter schools where administrators were accused of stealing more than $2 million.

More fraud in Medicare or Medicaid?

Federal prosecutors convicted a Detroit-area physical therapist last month of a nearly $15 million Medicare fraud scheme.

A federal grand jury convicted three men in connection with a scheme perpetrated from July 2008 through September 2011 in which companies billed Medicare for home health services that were never provided.

The companies paid kickbacks to recruiters, who in turn paid Medicare beneficiaries cash and promised them access to narcotic prescriptions. As part of the conspiracy they laundered profits through a staffing company.

All of this was uncovered by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, which operates in nine cities and has charged more than 1,700 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $5.5 billion.

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