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Audit questions $700,000 in spending by Springfield non-profit

A Springfield non-profit spent more than $700,000 in state funds without properly documenting it, the state auditor’s office said today.

The expenses that were not adequately documented by New England Farmworkers’ Council Inc. included $454,871 in salary paid over three years to the non-profit’s chief executive officer, Heriberto Flores.

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The auditor’s office said it found that Flores received compensation from state sources that exceeded “established limits” and was reported as a full-time employee for more than one company.

Flores’s total compensation was also not accurately reported in the non-profit’s state financial filings, the office said.

With the earnings from the second company added in, Flores made more than $900,000 in the fiscal years 2010 through 2012, the auditors said.

The audit also found $32,377 in “unallowable travel allowances” paid to Flores and $11,692 in charges at a restaurant that were “inadequately documented and/or used for activities not related to state-funded programs.”

The audit also found that $162,590 had been spent for consulting without the use of a competitive procurement process and without keeping supporting documentation. Some of the payments may also have been for lobbying, which is not allowed with state funds, auditors said.

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“This audit makes a fairly simple point – if you want to do business with the state you follow the state’s rules,” said State Auditor Suzanne Bump. “Proper documentation of all expenses is absolutely necessary to ensure that public resources are being used for a real public purpose.”

Attorney Bill Bennett, who represents the non-profit, said the organization had a “minor dispute about reporting” with the auditor, but there was no improper spending.

“The New England Farmworkers’ Council did not pay for any expenses that were not appropriate with state funds. None,” he said.

He also defended Flores’s pay as appropriate for the chief executive of an operation as large as the Council, which spent nearly $190 million over the three-year period.

Flores, in a statement, disputed the assertion that his compensation was not accurately reported. “All compensation paid to the CEO was fully reported to the Commonwealth and the IRS. The report’s suggestion to the contrary is totally without merit and unsupportable,” he said.

“During the audit period NEFWC spent $189,381,482 on expenses. We are pleased that the Auditor found that 99.6% of the expenses were adequately documented. We disagree that the remaining one half of one percent was not adequately documented,” the statement said.

The non-profit provides job training, day care, and other services to low-income residents on behalf of the state.

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