Jul 29, 2014
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Aldermen, Mayor Push for Financial Transparency in Non-Profits

The push comes after revelations that the former director of a Somerville non-profit was making personal purchases with the agency credit card.

Aldermen, Mayor Push for Financial Transparency in Non-Profits

The Somerville Board of Aldermen and Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone would like to have more financial and ethical oversight of non-profits that receive government grants.

An ordinance, proposed Aug. 16 and referred to the Legislative Matters Committee, would require that non-profits receiving government grants adhere to certain standards of ethical and financial transparency.

Now, the Board of Aldermen and mayor would like to speed up the adoption of that ordinance.

That desire comes after revelations that Kimberly Smith-Cofield, the former director of the Community Action Agency of Somerville, which runs Head Start programs in Somerville and Cambridge, used the agency's credit card to make more than 100 personal purchases, according an in-depth report by the Boston Globe.

Most of The Community Action Agency of Somerville's $5.5 million budget comes from federal and state grants, the Globe reported.

The proposed ordinance would require non-profits receiving taxpayer money to file regular financial audits and conflict-of-interest disclosures. It would also give the city power to revoke grant money from non-profits that violate ethics and transparency standards.

Ward 7 Alderman Robert Trane, who's co-sponsoring the proposed ordinance, said at a Board of Aldermen meeting Thursday, "We don't want to see people running around with a credit card like they have carte blanche on the citizens' dime."

"This has come to light now, it happens to be topical," Trane said, referring to the Community Action Agency of Somerville case. He said that hopefully "we don't have another situation like this."

In a statement about the proposed ordinance, Curtatone said, "We’re also seeking to send a clear message to grant recipients that we will require them to be open and transparent financially, and that we will withdraw support from organizations that cannot meet these standards.”

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