ETCOG denies claims agency isn't fiscally responsible

ETCOG denies claims agency isn't fiscally responsible

KILGORE (KYTX) - The former finance director for East Texas Council of Governments says a letter written by another employee is causing a firestorm at the agency in Kilgore, and even led to his firing on Friday.

Charles Cunningham says he witnessed many of the frivolous spending allegations, and while no state law was broken, thousands of dollars you pay in state and local taxes are lining the pockets some ETCOG contractors.

ETCOG's executive director says the allegations are not true, but the firestorm may be far from over.

This letter delivered to CBS 19 on January 23 leveled several accusations against ETCOG,  saying the agency was dishonest in how it procured bids for contracts, that outside contractors were deciding salaries for the agency's employees, that it was spending grant money dedicated for one department for other purposes, and that the executive director was creating unnecessary jobs purely for favoritism

Charles Cunningham says he saw much of it -- that includes using state and federal grants for unintended purposes.

"If you are directed to work on something that is not grant-related and charge it to a specific grant, then that's a violation of the requirements of the grant," Cunningham says.

ETCOG Executive Director David Cleveland wouldn't go on camera with CBS 19, but he has released a written response to allegations in the letter.

He says the agency is upfront on bid procurements, that contractors don't have a hand in ETCOG's payroll, that there is no favoritism, and that all agency spending lawfully follows state and federal accounting guidelines.

CBS 19 requested hundreds of documents, emails and invoices from ETCOG, many of them concerning the agency's contractor for Internet technology services.

Rockwall-based TH Enterprises and it's owner, Ted Hoisington, are getting as much as 750-thousand dollars this year for IT consultation and support, Cunningham says. Documents obtained by CBS 19 show that ETCOG often pays the company in excess of $20,000 a month for its services, and that Hoisington is paid $128 an hour.

But the letter's author, who remains anonymous. claims Hoisington has access to an unlimited amount of ETCOG funds.

Cunningham remembers in 2012, when ETCOG requested bids for IT support.

He says Cleveland wanted to hire Hoisington in advance as the agency's chief information officer, while hoisington's company bid for the IT contract, but that Cleveland later backed away from the plan.

"I think that scared off a few of the companies that might have bid on it, when they knew that Ted was the person of choice anyway to begin with," Cunningham says.

According to ETCOG, claims that TH Enterprises gets unlimited ETCOG money are false, and that the consultant helped ETCOG avoid catastrophe, because the agency's Internet technology equipment was sorely outdated when Cleveland arrived in 2007.

Cunningham says the frivolous spending he's seen might not have broken any laws, but it's costing the people of east Texas for whom state and federal grants are intended to help.


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