Local Anti-Poverty Agency Under Investigation

October 10, 2014

ATLANTA — Channel 2 Action News has learned that federal prosecutors have opened an investigation of a local anti-poverty agency.
 
Channel 2 Investigative Reporter Richard Belcher said the agency got millions of federal tax dollars but left hundreds of local homeowners in danger.
 
Reliable sources told Belcher the U.S. Attorney's Office in Atlanta has opened a criminal investigation of the Partnership for Community Action. It was paid to weatherize or insulate and seal homes for low-income families. But it allegedly left behind life-threatening problems.
 
A team from Southeast Energy Assistance had to correct the problems PCA allegedly left behind.
 
Investigators concluded that PCA sealed and insulated more than 1,100 local homes but failed to check for them potentially lethal carbon monoxide gas. Half of the home did have carbon monoxide problems.
 
Darren Maguire of Southeast Energy said his teams inspected many of the homes.
 
“This home we found there was a water heater that had carbon monoxide leaking in excess of 1,600 parts per million, which is 16 times the acceptable limit,” Maguire said.
 
Maguire's teams broke the bad news to more than 500 families.
               
“They were just terrified that they'd been living in conditions like that, that were created for them,” Maguire said.
 
Una Holmes of Snellville showed Belcher the water heater that was leaking the carbon monoxide gas in her home.
 
“I didn't know what was going on but I realized that something wasn't right down here until I called them in and they said it was that,” Holmes said.
 
Belcher went to PCA’s Clarkston office Thursday.
 
The agency was kicked out of the weatherization program but not before receiving nearly $12 million in federal stimulus money.
 
PCA's chief executive acknowledges federal authorities have subpoenaed its records. Maguire said that's files on about 2,000 homes.
 
“I am definitely glad that we could get back into these clients' houses and fix problems that were left for them, because that's what the program was for is to make living conditions better and not worse,” Maguire said.
 
A lot of eyes have been on PCA for a couple of years. The Georgia Environmental Finance Authority first spotted the problem and brought in the state inspector general. Later, the U.S. Energy Department got involved.
 
The U.S. Attorney's Office declined comment about the investigation, which is now its responsibility.