EXCLUSIVE...Executive Director Accused of Fraud Speaks Out

Nick Lawton
NewsWest 9

REEVES COUNTY - Mary Jane Rios is the head over several programs on the Community Council of Reeves County that provide air conditioners and ceiling fans to hundreds of low-income families stretching across Reeves, Ward, Winkler and Loving Counties.

The report conducted by the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs accuses her of misspending more than $186,000 back in 2010.

It also levels allegations of fraud, accusing her of not providing these services to clients, accusations that she claims are unfair.

"To me and my family and my friends, it's been very, very stressful, really," Rios said. "There's going to be clarification to all this. There's two sides to the story. A lot of the people jumped to conclusions and the word 'fraud' is a very serious accusation."

Rios told NewsWest 9 the review done by the Department was not done appropriately.

She said she did nothing different from the way these funds were always spent.

"The agency operated their services and their programs in the same manner that we've done it for the last 13 years," Rios said. "What I can say is that the services were provided to the clients. The clients were eligible."

Rios would not comment on the fraud allegations, but would respond to the 27 different findings made by the Department.

In response to the nepotism finding in which she used a trailer owned by her brother for weatherization services, Rios said she borrowed the trailer to avoid purchasing one when they wouldn't need it later and only paid for the three-year registration in which they would need it.

Another finding accused Rios of prioritizing clients and doing away with the waiting list they would be put on. Rios said that's not true.

"It was not done away with," she said. "It was condensed, and the way we condensed it is homes that applied for assistance and we know are not eligible because of how depleted they are. There's nothing we can do to that home."

Rios said homes left off the list were ones with roofs and walls too broken-down to insulate.

Other findings on the report state that more than $23,000 worth of ceiling fans were purchased last December and still weren't installed by May.

The answer Rios gave NewsWest 9 was that they still have inventory of the fans, but that those who install the fans take more time than the six-month installation deadline of the Comprehensive Energy Assistance Program, who provided the funds for the fans.

She said what causes the installation hold-up is the assessment of each house on the waiting list to see if it can be weatherized.

"Every department has their own way of keeping the documentation, and the person who was in charge to do the installation of the ceiling fans had his own manner and his own way of keeping a list of the clients that were eligible for the ceiling fans," Rios said. "Don't expect to see a list with a title saying 'Ceiling Fans: List of Clients.'"

When NewsWest 9 asked her again what her comment was on the allegations of fraud she is facing, Rios again said she would make no comment at this time.

"Again, I won't respond or comment on those," she said. "I've got legal representation that will be handling those for me."

NewsWest 9 called Monahans Police, both the Ward and Reeves County Sheriff's offices and the Texas Rangers, all of whom said they were not investigating the case.

Officials with the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs told NewsWest 9 that they are about to enter into a contract with a nearby nonprofit to immediately begin helping low-income families with their electric bills again. They said they'll announce the contract on Tuesday and services will be kicked off again later in the week.