On the subject of lining one’s own pockets under the pretense of helping needy kids:
The Las Vegas Sun reports that Willa Chaney, a candidate for the State Board of Education, owes the Nevada Education Department more than half a million bucks for funds she misused while running a program to provide aid to needy students.
The NV Education Dept. sued Willia Chaney’s company and in August a District Court judge ordered Chaney to pay back the money. The Sun reports:
“From 1993 to 1999 Chaney operated a federally funded program to provide meals to poor children during summer vacations and other school breaks. The state shut down the Smart Start Summer Food Service Program in 1999 after the inspector general identified $1.01 million in questionable expenses.”
Apparently investigators found that Smart Start was serving far fewer children than it claimed in its reports of meals delivered to 13 apartment buildings in Las Vegas and North Las Vegas. Also among the investigator’s audit findings (quoted from the Sun):
• More than $250,000 in salaries was paid to 15 Smart Start employees, “even though they apparently did little or no work” and no time cards were maintained. Chaney’s husband, James, served as the program’s director and her son and daughter were on the payroll.
• Federal money was used to purchase five vehicles. The titles were in the Chaneys’ names rather than in the name of the Smart Start program.
• The program’s costs included $2,000 a month paid to Chaney’s day-care center, Smart Start Daycare, for use of its kitchen and parking spaces. Investigators determined the food program’s facility had ample parking, and the child-care center was paying $1 a year to lease its entire location.
Chaney is running for the District 3 seat on the State Board of Education, which sets policy for the Nevada Education Department and the state’s school districts. She denies any wrongdoing.