New company distances itself from HARC - WSLS 10 NBC in Roanoke/Lynchburg Va

New company distances itself from HARC

Posted: Updated:
The president & CEO of Sunrise Community Inc. The president & CEO of Sunrise Community Inc.
Sunrise recently purchased this facility from HARC Sunrise recently purchased this facility from HARC

By the time change rolled around at the Hillsborough Association for Retarded Citizens on February 1st, 44-year-old Vickie Caldwell was out $49,000.

Vickie has lived in a HARC group home for about 20 years.

Records obtained by 8 On Your Side reveal Vickie was supposed to have $49,000 for her supplemental needs and care, in a special pooled trust fund set up by HARC. All of that money, plus another $650,000 belonging to 40 other clients, is gone.  It was spent by HARC to pay its bills. Those bills included some unauthorized perks for former CEO Richard Lilliston.

"I'm very disappointed and surprised," Carolyn Caldwell, Vickie's mother said.

With money going out faster than it was coming in, and its board of directors not keeping a close watch, HARC was sliding closer and closer to financial collapse in 2012.

As it became evident the end was near, the board scrambled to find a buyer.

Toward the end of 2012, Les Leech, the president and CEO of Sunrise Community Inc., says he heard that HARC was on the ropes.

According to its own literature, "Sunrise Community is one of the largest, private not-for-profit organizations in the country dedicated to serving the needs of people with intellectual and physical challenges."

Leech says the organization serves thousands of people in residential as well as day programs in Florida, Alabama, Connecticut, Maryland, Tennessee and Virginia.

Sunrise purchased HARC's assets on February 1st, which include a multi-million dollar facility on Kirby Street that Hillsborough County taxpayers helped pay for, as well as 8 group homes.

"We paid a sum of money to HARC and it was a relatively small amount," Leech said. "A little over $300,000 to cover immediate problems, some selective payments that had to be, in order for the organization not to miss payroll, stay intact to facilitate the transition."

"We probably took on several million dollars in debt that is now our responsibility for the physical plants or facilities," he said.

Sunrise Director of Corporate Communication Margaret Feldman said what was most important is that services to HARC's clients, who now fall under the Sunrise umbrella, was never interrupted.

What is also important to Leech is that he wants nothing to do with what occurred prior to February 1st.

That is why none of HARC's former board directors members will sit on Sunrise's board.

"It wouldn't be appropriate at all just because of the sensitivity of what maybe happened on that side of the fence," Leech said.

Leech is referring to the ongoing investigation of HARC by Florida's Attorney General's office and the Department of Financial Services.

An 8 On Your Side investigation revealed DFS is investigating HARC for billing the state for benefits that the agency did not supply.

The Attorney General investigated HARC for possible Medicaid Fraud. It has closed that investigation but Attorney General Pam Bondi says multiple units within her office as well as other agencies are actively investigating HARC's financial activities.

"We are staying separate from anything that happened prior to February 1st, I keep harping on that," Leech said.

Leech and other Sunrise staff met with families of clients April 6th at Net Park in Tampa to answer questions.

He says the most pressing need expressed by families and staff was to improve some of the physical structures. He claims to have already gotten estimates on roof repairs and replacements, as well as bathroom renovations.

"You want to show you're an organization of action and talk is cheap. What you need to do is fix some things and you've got to fix them early," he said.

What Leech nor Sunrise can fix are the hundreds of thousands of dollars missing from client trust funds and spent by HARC.

He says if families or guardians want to set up pooled trust funds for their relatives who now reside in Sunrise's group homes, he vows the trusts will be set up according to the law.

"There are a lot of things that are permissible to you know handle differently there's autonomy involved perhaps and judgments involved, but client trust funds are something that have to be run by the book, no deviation," Leech said.

For Vickie Caldwell, that change is coming $49,000 too late.

  • 8 On Your SideMore>>

  • Glitch crashes global US passport, visa operations

    Glitch crashes global US passport, visa operations

    Thursday, July 24 2014 12:34 PM EDT2014-07-24 16:34:46 GMT
    The State Department's global database for issuing travel documents has crashed, resulting in major delays for potentially millions of people around the world waiting for U.S. passports and visas, officials said Wednesday.
    The State Department's global database for issuing travel documents has crashed, resulting in major delays for potentially millions of people around the world waiting for U.S. passports and visas, officials said Wednesday.
  • Apple users get strange emails with old dates

    Apple users get strange emails with old dates

    Thursday, July 24 2014 6:53 AM EDT2014-07-24 10:53:01 GMT
    If you got an email dated in the 60s, you would probably assume it's a scam.
    If you got an email dated in the 60s, you would probably assume it's a scam.
  • Pinellas homeowner ends up the loser after local government mistake on property taxes

    Pinellas homeowner ends up the loser after local government mistake on property taxes

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 5:59 PM EDT2014-07-22 21:59:58 GMT
    This Preservation land is at heart of homeowner tax dispute in PinellasThis Preservation land is at heart of homeowner tax dispute in Pinellas
    Melanie and Jeffrey Cornwell should have been getting a tax break for years on part of the homestead property in Dunedin they call their "little piece of Heaven." But due to a mistake at the Pinellas Property Appraiser's Office, they won't see any rebates for previous taxes, just a break on future tax bills.
    Melanie and Jeffrey Cornwell should have been getting a tax break for years on part of the homestead property in Dunedin they call their "little piece of Heaven." But due to a mistake at the Pinellas Property Appraiser's Office, they won't see any rebates for previous taxes, just a break on future tax bills.
  • NewsMore>>

  • St. Pete police release wrong ID arrested in drug bust

    St. Pete police release wrong ID arrested in drug bust

    Thursday, July 24 2014 2:18 PM EDT2014-07-24 18:18:58 GMT
    Photos of those arrested during drug investigation in St. Petersburg, including the mistaken ID.Photos of those arrested during drug investigation in St. Petersburg, including the mistaken ID.
    At a press conference on Wednesday, St. Petersburg Police released the picture of a man they said was arrested during a drug investigation. But, they got it wrong.
    At a press conference on Wednesday, St. Petersburg Police released the picture of a man they said was arrested during a drug investigation. But, they got it wrong.
  • VIDEO: Intense gator battle at Odessa golf course

    VIDEO: Intense gator battle at Odessa golf course

    Thursday, July 24 2014 1:47 PM EDT2014-07-24 17:47:49 GMT
    An amazing video of two big gators locked in an intense fight might have you wondering how something so dangerous could happen at a golf course. A golfer shot the video using a cell phone
    An amazing video of two big gators locked in an intense fight might have you wondering how something so dangerous could happen at a golf course. A golfer shot the video using a cell phone
  • One struck by lightning in Clearwater

    One struck by lightning in Clearwater

    Thursday, July 24 2014 1:47 PM EDT2014-07-24 17:47:12 GMT
    One person has been struck by lightning at Sand Key Park in Clearwater.
    One person has been struck by lightning at Sand Key Park in Clearwater.
  • Floydfest attracts people from all walks of life

    Floydfest attracts people from all walks of life

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 11:26 PM EDT2014-07-24 03:26:58 GMT
    FloydFest 13 kicked off on Wednesday. Thousands of people from different walks of life will attend various events. Some come to the music festival to escape the monotony of everyday living."
    FloydFest 13 kicked off on Wednesday. Thousands of people from different walks of life will attend various events. Some come to the music festival to escape the monotony of everyday living."

  • House, Senate chairs offer competing bill on VA

    House, Senate chairs offer competing bill on VA

    Thursday, July 24 2014 2:42 PM EDT2014-07-24 18:42:29 GMT
    With Congress scheduled to recess in a week, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee's chairman is offering to scale back a Senate-passed bill to improve health care services for veterans.
    With Congress scheduled to recess in a week, the chairmen of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees offered competing new proposals Thursday to fix a veterans health care program scandalized by long waits and...
  • As Iraq gets new president, car bomb kills 21

    As Iraq gets new president, car bomb kills 21

    Thursday, July 24 2014 1:49 PM EDT2014-07-24 17:49:38 GMT
    Iraqi officials say militants have attacked a prisoner convoy north of Baghdad, killing 52 prisoners and eight soldiers.
    Iraqi officials say a double car bombing in central Baghdad has killed 21 people and wounded 33, hours after lawmakers elected the country's new president.
Powered by WorldNow

WSLS 10, P.O. Box 10
Roanoke, VA 24022-0010

Telephone: 540.981.9110
Fax: 540.343.3157
Email: news@wsls.com

Can't find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.