The president of the D.C. Coalition for the Homeless, which operates shelters throughout the city, said yesterday she intends to resign because some staff members have abused their expense accounts and made other questionable expenditures of coalition funds.
Elisabeth Huguenin, who has been president of the nonprofit community organization for less than a year, said yesterday she objected to reimbursements for meals and automobile expenses claimed by Patricia Makin, the coalition's $35,000-a-year executive director.
Financial records of the organization show that Makin was paid $604 for restaurant expenses between Sept. 28 and Nov. 7. The expenses, according to the documents, covered numerous meals with coalition board members at District restaurants. In addition, Makin received $2,142 for mileage between November and April.
"We are a nonprofit organization and we have been given very limited funds to run the kind of program we wanted to run," said Huguenin, adding that she plans to resign at the next meeting of the coalition board on Tuesday. "When you take all that into consideration, obviously all those expenses seem really excessive . . . . I am very frustrated and unhappy with the way things have been run."
Makin said the expenses payments were based on legitimate business activities conducted by her on behalf of the coalition. The mileage expenses were a result of local travel connected with funding negotiations with the federal government as well as efforts to locate and purchase shelter facilities, she said yesterday through coalition attorney James Edward Mercer.
"Many times when we went to community meetings or were locating properties late at night, it was not uncommon for us to eat out at restaurants ," Makin was quoted as saying.
The coalition received a $3.7 million federal grant in September to shelter the homeless.
An FBI and D.C. police investigation is continuing into allegations that a former coalition board member improperly received a $1,000 payment from a coalition contractor. Officials of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, responding to charges of other financial improprieties, have imposed strict monitoring requirements on the organization's spending.
Huguenin said her planned resignation, about two weeks before her term was to expire, also is linked to a threat made against her life on May 2.
She said the threat was made after she and another board member questioned the propriety of $4,500 in the payments proposed by staff members for laborers who assisted with the April 30 shutdown of the coalition's Anacostia shelter for men.
Huguenin said the contract accompanying the federal grant permitted only $3,000 in expenses for the move, with an additional $2,000 available in case of an emergency. "I did not see that as an emergency," she said.
D.C. Police Lt. William White confirmed yesterday that police have received "allegations of threats" against Huguenin and another board member. "The members of the internal affairs division are in the process of conducting an investigation at this time," he said.
The coalition received federal funding last September to house residents of a large homeless shelter operated by the Community for Creative Non-Violence at 425 Second St. NW, which the federal government then planned to close. The CCNV facility remained open, however, and federal officials now plan to provide $5 million to renovate it.
Meanwhile, the coalition faces community opposition to some of the smaller shelters it has opened throughout the city.