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More ex-workers cite irregularities at D.C. AIDS nonprofit

By Debbie Cenziper
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Three former employees of a troubled nonprofit agency that was awarded more than $1 million in District AIDS funding say their boss routinely doctored pay stubs and other records to draw money from city government.

They said they discovered the inconsistencies during a turbulent stint last year at Hill's Community Residential Support Services, which had been collecting city money to house women with HIV since 2004. The former employees also said the program lacked staff, food, therapy and support services, forcing ailing boarders to fend for themselves even as the city was cutting checks to pay for their care.

"I was there for 3 1/2 months," said former Hill's Community program director William Kelly. "It felt like years."

In October, The Washington Post detailed a string of problems at the program, including chronic staff turnover, poor building conditions, double-billing for salaries and questionable expenses for such things as jewelry, flowers and suede gloves. Former supervisor Anita Boardley told The Post at the time that the head of Hill's Community, Marilyn Hill, had billed the city for nonexistent employees, creating records at a Staples store in Maryland.

Since then, Kelly and two other former Hill's employees, counselor Carolyn McSwain and program assistant Lakisha Goldsberry, have stepped forward to provide The Post with new details about the program, which has recently closed. A fourth former employee, AIDS advocate Raymond S. Blanks, also described the lack of services, saying, "It was just a tragedy. Those women were really left in the wilderness without a paddle."

Hill attributed the allegations to disgruntled employees. She said she worked hard to maintain a well-run program and never falsified records or skirted the law.

"I've done my best with all of the clients who have come in and out of my facility, nothing but the best," said Hill, speaking publicly for the first time since her program closed. "I have never done anything wrong. It's just not who I am."

Kelly, who has a master's degree in social work, said he and his colleagues began to question the bills at Hill's Community soon after they were hired in late 2008, about the time the program received a $300,000 grant from the D.C. Health Department's HIV/AIDS Administration to provide beds and support services for eight women at a house on Warder Street Northwest.

One budget showed Hill had earmarked $126,000 from the grant to cover salaries. But Kelly and his colleagues said employees were paid irregularly, if at all.

Kelly said Hill would give him paychecks to issue to the staff but demand that employees not cash them. "There was no money to cover the checks," he said.

He said Hill needed the checks to prove to the city that she had paid her employees; she would submit copies to the HIV/AIDS Administration for reimbursement. Kelly, McSwain and Goldsberry provided several of the uncashed checks to The Post. Kelly said Hill would eventually pay her staff with money orders.

But Kelly, McSwain and Goldsberry said they are still owed money for past work. They also said the pay stubs that Hill issued to the staff were bogus, with randomly calculated tax deductions.

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