MARTINEZ -- Contra Costa County may fire a Concord-based nonprofit that squirreled away tens of thousands of dollars of public money instead of using it to provide the mental health services it was hired to perform.
Contra Costa Health Services staff will ask county supervisors on Tuesday to terminate all four Mental Health Consumer Concerns, Inc.'s contracts as of Dec. 31.
The nonprofit's board of directors concedes their staff made accounting mistakes and agrees it owes Contra Costa and Napa counties a combined $395,802. But they are expected to plead with county supervisors for more time to pay the money back and commit to funding the nonprofit's operations through 2016.
"While MHCC management and our board must take responsibility for the current fiscal crisis, Contra Costa County's lack of financial diligence and oversight also allowed this problem to compound over the course of five years," the board wrote in a five-page appeal.
The county's move to cut ties with the nonprofit comes after a seven-month probe spurred by complaints lodged last spring. The fiscal review showed the nonprofit improperly diverted $363,606 of county payments for services into a reserve account in 2007-2010.
The county found no evidence that the money was spent improperly. But the contracts specifically allow reimbursement only for actual delivery costs and prohibits carrying over funds from year to year, said Contra Costa County Behavioral Health Services Director Cynthia Belon.
The county estimates it could recoup roughly $200,000 worth of services from the agency in November and December, but will still be owed $163,000.
Belon conceded that proper fiscal checks were not done during the years in question but said the county has since tightened its reimbursement policies for all contractors.
Contra Costa Supervisor Karen Mitchoff of Concord agrees the county failed to check up on the nonprofit. But whether or not the supervisors will bail out the nonprofit in light of the county's oversight shortcomings is unclear.
"I am not sympathetic to the establishment of the reserve and the nonprofit board knows they had a fiduciary responsibility to be on top of this," Mitchoff said. "I also have concerns about MHCC's financial ability to continue providing services."
The county's four service contracts with Mental Health Consumer Concerns Inc. are worth a combined $1.85 million.
Established in 1976, the nonprofit is run by mental health service consumers for individuals with mental illness. It offers patient rights advocacy, life skills coaching, anger management classes and numerous other programs at wellness and recovery centers in Antioch, Richmond and Concord.
The county has advertised new requests for proposals to replace the services provided by the nonprofit. But unless a new provider comes on board soon, the Consumer Concerns' wellness centers will likely close within the next 30 to 60 days, according to the nonprofit.