Quincy said to rule key regional board
Agency channels $6m in funding
Some members of a regional board established to handle $6 million in federal and state workforce training funds have accused the Quincy contingent of hogging the power and the purse strings for the city’s own benefit.
Denis Hanks, vice chairman of the South Shore Workforce Investment Board, quit the panel in frustration two weeks ago. Hanks, the executive director of the Plymouth Area Chamber of Commerce, complained that three key figures from Quincy - Mayor Thomas Koch, his appointee Kevin Madden, and investment board chairman Don Uvanitte - have ignored repeated requests from board members to get legal advice on the panel’s authority when it comes to deciding how millions are spent.
“I think the political leaders in Quincy are trying to keep a stranglehold on the Workforce Investment Board,’’ Hanks said last week. “None of the board members know what our role is, and we get presented with ‘take it or leave it’ deals.’’
The Quincy representatives disagree. Madden said he welcomes the board’s input.
“There would be absolutely no objection from me that they get involved,’’ he said. Regarding the request for an outside legal opinion of the Workforce Investment Act, Madden said the board should have covered the expense in its budget.
“They raised this issue last spring, but they didn’t put it in their budget or anywhere else,’’ he said.
Under the Workforce Investment Act, federal and state money is distributed to 16 areas statewide to pay for youth programs and adult job training. According to the state Department of Labor, each investment area is under regional control and runs a little differently.
The South Shore workforce area serves 22 communities, from Quincy south to Plymouth and Middleborough. As the largest community in the region, Quincy acts as the lead city and its mayor the chief elected official, according to the local setup.
The region’s two adult training centers, where much of the federal and state funds are spent, are located in Quincy and Plymouth.
Board member Jim Howard, a community delegate from the United Way, said he, like Hanks, is concerned over his panel’s lack of authority and wants to see what the law delegates to it.
“When vendors are hired for the career centers, the investment board should be part of that process, but decisions are made unilaterally by Madden,’’ Howard said. “It’s time for the structure of the workforce area to be brought up to the standards in the Workforce Investment Act. Then we would have clear and concise rules.’’
Madden has served as director of the Quincy and Plymouth career centers since being appointed by Koch 18 months ago. He complained that he has had to handle a long list of service providers alone, as his predecessors had.
“Since being created in 1998, the Workforce Investment Board has never taken this on,’’ Madden said. “We have all kinds of vendors, from colleges and technical schools to private vendors. They are all approved by the state, but the investment board can say they don’t like a particular program. They’ve never done that, and I don’t know why.’’
Uvanitte said he has been working to get clarification of the federal laws for his members. “But I don’t think it’s appropriate to spend taxpayer dollars we need for training and hire a lawyer before we first hear from the mayor,’’ he said.
Koch planned to attend last week’s scheduled board meeting and talk to members, but the session had to be canceled due to improper posting, Uvanitte said. It had not been rescheduled as of early this week.
“The board feels the wheels are spinning a little slow, and I understand that,’’ Uvanitte said.
Meanwhile, the Norfolk County Labor Council’s delegate, James Tinkham, called his time on the investment board an eye-opener for the way it’s run.
“I’ve been on a couple boards over the last 13 years, and this is the only one that only learns what happens after the fact,’’ Tinkham said.
“The board has no authority. It’s evident Quincy is running the show, and all they are looking for is a rubber stamp from us.’’
Some board members expressed concern over Madden’s assignment of staff at the two career centers. Hanks and Howard said it looked as though Quincy was being favored; they said Plymouth recently lost staff members, after budget reductions, while Quincy gained new staff.
Madden denied that happened. “Both centers are pretty much equal in staff,’’ he said, “and Quincy’s is the third-busiest in the state.’’
In his resignation letter, Hanks expressed outrage over Koch’s apparent rejection of three new candidates Hanks had nominated for the Workforce Investment Board.
The Plymouth Area and South Shore chambers of commerce provide the mayor with candidates’ lists for yearly appointments each summer, which are made after the change of the fiscal year in July.
South Shore’s list of candidates was approved by the mayor. All three Plymouth area nominations were bypassed, Hanks said, adding the action was a first in his recollection.
“One can only hope this is not the outcome of suggesting a review of the corporation and its mission,’’ Hanks said.
Chris Walker, a spokesman for Koch, did not return a call for comment, and Madden said he didn’t know whether Hanks’s nomination letter ever reached the mayor.
Tinkham said he believes Hanks’s resignation won’t end the clash with Quincy.
“This should be a huge concern to everybody that’s associated with it, and I think it’s going to be coming to a head,’’ he said.
Christine Legere can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.