Reeves County Programs Director Accused of Fraud

Nick Lawton
NewsWest 9

REEVES COUNTY - The Community Council of Reeves County serves hundreds of low-income families in Reeves, Ward, Winkler and Loving counties.

But now the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs has cracked down on the Council and their Executive Director of Programs Mary Jane Rios.

The Department began their investigation back in April after complaints were made of potentially unlawful actions. They continued to investigate in May.

The results of their findings were revealed at the Council's meeting Thursday night.

"We had found out there were some allegations," Community Council Board Member, Dexter Nichols, said. "And then also there had been some, not misappropriation, we just issued some funds incorrectly. $186,000."

That's combined with another $6,000 of questionable allegations.

All of those expenditures were allegedly made between 2008 and today.

Allegations leveled against Rios include destruction of employee time sheets, paying employees for work they didn't do and then factoring in employee expenditures while they were on unpaid leave.

There were also 27 findings made by the Department that claim Rios controlled most fiscal operations, demonstrated improper use of allocating costs and that the programs spent more on staff salaries than client assistance.

Deeper findings detail ineligible meal purchases, nepotism and prioritizing clients.

Now the Council faces losing control of the programs to the state.

The massive debt that's just been handed them has also closed down the programs' office in Monahans.

"We have 45 days to answer these findings," Nichols said. "And if the state feels that we can still run the program, we will. It's going to be awful hard unless we can get a loan or something like that to go ahead and run the program. We might have to relinquish control of the program to the state."

The programs in question provided air conditioners and ceiling fans to low-income families and sometimes even helped them pay their electric bills.

According to the documents, Rios never installed more than $23,000 worth of ceiling fans in clients' homes, when those fans were bought back in December 2010.

The Department's investigation also points out how many appliances given to clients didn't work, which the Council will now have to reimburse with money they don't have.

The question they face now is where to go from here, but they want to reassure those using the programs that they won't be shut down.

"The move the board makes is with their interests at heart, and if it's better for us to give the running of the program so they can get their needs met quicker, that's what we'll do," Nichols said. "We want to try to assure the people there maybe a little delay, but just keep calling."

Nichols told NewsWest 9 the Council will meet again in five days to take action on the findings.

Whether or not Rios will be fired from her post or whether or not the council will give control of the programs over to the state has yet to be determined.

Stay tuned to NewsWest 9 as we keep you updated as this situation progresses.