A state audit of the Springfield Regional Center, a group home for mentally retarded adults, has uncovered nearly a quarter of a million dollars worth of gifts that were "not accounted for properly."
The audit, issued earlier this month, is a follow-up to a routine audit issued in early December that uncovered "unsatisfactory" living conditions, a client with diaper rash, and prescription drugs that were accessible in an unlocked refrigerator, among other findings.
"Our initial review of the Springfield Regional Center's management and accountability over its donation program identified serious weaknesses," the audit said.
Donations of property with an estimated value of $222,313 were made to the center between July 1, 2003, and Aug. 11, 2005, were not accounted for properly, the audit said. "Donated property included a variety of items such as computers, swimming pools, hot tubs, trampolines, bicycles, swing sets, furniture, gift cards, toys, clothing, medical equipment, and personal care items." Monetary donations were also accepted.
Most disturbing is the audit's implication that center employees might have received preferential treatment in receiving gifts that were intended for disabled children.
The audit said, "We observed several regional center employees sorting through boxes of donated toys and one employee stating she was taking toys for her son, who is a client of the SRC.
"Our initial concerns relating to the distribution of donations were based on our observation in August 2005 of several employees sorting through boxes of new toys. SRC employees indicated the toys were being distributed by the community resource specialist because she wanted to request another shipment of toys for Christmas gifts in December 2005."
Toys were not the only items that appear to have been mishandled, according to the audit. "Further observations included the removal of a donated copier/printer from the community resource office by an individual who was not an employee of the regional center. This individual works for a not-for-profit organization that contracts with the SRC."
In their response, center officials indicated the problems were being taken care of and that the community resource specialist who had been in charge of the donation program left the center on Sept. 8.
The Springfield Regional Center is one of 11 such facilities established by the Department of Mental Health. The Center serves citizens in Christian, Dallas, Douglas, Greene, Hickory, Laclede, Ozark, Polk, Stone, Taney, Webster, and Wright counties.
The Mental Health Trust Fund allows the center to receive grants, gifts, donations and bequests of property, according to the audit.