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Monroe County officials pick new nonprofit to administer Neighborhood Collaborative Project

The Monroe County Office Building.
File photo
The Monroe County Office Building.

A stalled county initiative that was using federal pandemic relief funds to assist neighborhood groups could soon resume with a new nonprofit at the helm.

Monroe County officials froze that funding in February after learning that for several months, organizations in the Neighborhood Collaborative Project hadn’t received checks they were supposed to from the previous administrator, the nonprofit Community Resource Collaborative.

Monroe County officials have selected Starbridge Services to take over administrative duties from Community Resource Collaborative.

Starbridge is a nonprofit that provides an array of services to people who have disabilities and those who support them. The group would administer the remaining $6 million in relief funds granted to the Neighborhood Collaborative Project, or NCP.

“We're thrilled — there's been a long wait — that we're finally getting a new administrator in place,” said Andy Carey of MC Collaborative, one of the partners in the project.

NCP is a network of about a dozen neighborhood nonprofits working in areas ranging from food pantries to homeless outreach and workforce development.

In a news release, county officials said Starbridge “has significant experience managing complex state and federal programs and grants.” They added that the selection process for Starbridge was bipartisan.

“The services provided by NCP are vital to the neighborhoods they serve,” County Executive Adam Bello said in the release. “These are life changing and even lifesaving support systems for many residents. Getting the NCP agencies back up and operating as soon as possible is imperative.”

The county had awarded the NCP $7.2 million in federal grant funding, and in May 2023, the county selected the nonprofit Community Resource Collaborative to administer that funding over four years.

The organization handled $1.1 million in total. But in late summer and early autumn, the nonprofits stopped getting their checks, according to leaders of the organizations.

In late January, Anthony Hall, the CEO of the organization, fired Chief Operating Officer Tina Paradiso, and in mid-February the nonprofit retained attorney Langston McFadden to investigate the organization internally.

The county temporarily froze the funding and hired a contractor to perform a forensic review of how the organization used the money. The firm determined that the NCP agencies were still owed $243,907.

County Executive Adam Bello submitted legislation this week to hire Starbridge.

Legislators will consider the measure during committee meetings later in April and could vote on it during the May 14 meeting of the full Legislature.

“It feels like things are finally moving forward,” Carey said. “And I think with a really solid administrator, they can move forward well. We won't have to worry about this type of thing anymore. It's really been tragic to have all that's happened, slow the momentum of the work and really hurt a lot of these community organizations.”

The auditors also cited a lack of internal financial oversight by Community Resource Collaborative and found that the organization co-mingled funds between bank accounts, which resulted in grant funding being spent on programs for which it wasn’t intended.

The review report noted that the firm wasn’t engaged in a full audit and so it refrained from drawing conclusions about whether the problems were the result of mismanagement or fraud. The organization is likely insolvent and unable to fulfill its outstanding obligations, the report concluded.

State and federal law enforcement agencies have also opened investigations into Community Resource Collaborative.

Jeremy Moule is a deputy editor with WXXI News. He also covers Monroe County.