December 19, 2012BERLIN — Court-appointed Todd Fahey, who is a lawyer at Orr & Reno, spent Monday morning working with key staff members of Tri-County CAP (Community Action Programs), including chief operations officer Peter Higbee, to enlist their help in making sure that the nonprofit agency that serves Coös, Carroll, and Grafton counties provides a continuum of services to its many clients.
The state Attorney General's Office put the nonprofit agency into receivership on Friday, according to Tri-County CAP's former board president Rep. Bill Hatch of Gorham. At the same time, court action relieved the board of all its responsibilities. Special trustee Fahey has not only assumed the board's duties but also some operational responsibilities.
The agency's president, Joe Costello of Plymouth, was also let go. Costello was hired in 2011 from within the board when longtime executive Larry Kelley stepped down for health reasons; the vacancy was not advertised.
Although the agency is in "severe financial difficulty," the situation is not insurmountable, Higbee explained in a Monday afternoon phone interview. "We've spent the last week fully realizing the extent of these financial difficulties," Higbee said.
"Like all nonprofits, Tri-County CAP had tried for too long to do too much for too many to meet the region's needs with too few resources," Rep. Hatch explained.
"The important message is that a continuum of services to clients will continue," said the former board president, emphasizing that the agency and its staff is dedicated to providing needed services.
Higbee said that the agency's recent acquisition of the former Congregational Church building in Berlin is not affected by these changes.
Coös County Probate Judge David King of Colebrook, who was sitting in the Merrimack courthouse on Friday, issued the court order, explained Director Anthony I. Blenkinsop of the Charitable Trusts Unit in the AG's Office in a telephone interview.
"We first became aware that there was a problem on Dec. 4, when another County CAP agency let us know there appeared to be a problem with state Health and Human Services funds," Blenkinsop said. "We moved swiftly to look into the matter because of the number of people – clients for services and some 300 employees for payroll — who depend on Tri-County CAP."
"We did find that some funds that are restricted for particular services or purposes were being spent as though they could be used for general operating purposes," Blenkinsop said.
He also confirmed that special trustee Fahey now holds all the powers previously held by the agency's board.