WHISTLEBLOWER? Fraud allegations made against Harbor Homes;Attorney General investigating
NASHUA – Former Harbor Homes employee Melbourne Moran said agency CEO Peter Kelleher may have fired him for asking questions about fraud allegedly taking place within the nonprofit organization.
Moran also said he is concerned Harbor Homes may have misappropriated $50,000 worth of taxpayers’ money the city of Nashua granted to the agency to provide transportation for the Gate City’s Safe Stations program.
Friday, Thomas Donovan, director of the Charitable Trusts Unit for the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office, confirmed an ongoing investigation of Harbor Homes.
“The Charitable Trusts Unit of the Attorney General’s Office is directing a review of Harbor Homes and related entities,” Donovan said in that email statement. “The review covers matters typically examined as to similar organizations, including an analysis of financial and corporate governance issues. Because the review is ongoing, it is premature to draw any conclusions.”
Where Is The Money?
Allegations that Harbor Homes Inc. is actively engaging in fraudulent business practices proliferated after a former residential director was chatting with the husband of an agency employee, who is still employed to this day.
Her husband mentioned what he had heard to his wife, who then took the allegations to Moran. Moran said he was fired shortly after taking these concerns to Kelleher. He asserts the reasoning for his firing was so he would not continue to ask questions about how money was being spent.
“It seemed too close to my whistleblower complaint that I thought I was reporting to Peter about what I feel is a good faith report of potential misuse of government funds,” Moran said. “I don’t want to say fraud, because it’s not my job to prove that.”
Moran started at Harbor Homes in October 2017, and was employed there until May 3.
When asked about the reasoning for firing Moran, Kelleher said it is an internal personnel matter, and not something on which he can comment.
“I’m very confident that we are carrying out all of our activities in a very honorable fashion according to the highest standards,” Kelleher said.
Whether this is all a misunderstanding, misuse of funds or actual fraud, Moran still wonders where some money Harbor Homes received from the city went. After his firing, Melbourne sent an email to members of the Nashua Board of Aldermen, Mayor Jim Donchess, representatives from New Hampshire Partnership for Successful Living (a collaboration of six independent nonprofits in the state), the New Hampshire Department of Justice, and New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services Department.
“I’ve actually talked with Peter Kelleher who’s the head of Harbor Homes and Granite Pathways, the so-called hub in Nashua, about the situation,” Donchess said. “I don’t think it is really as the employee describes.”
In that email, Moran states that during his one to one supervision with Kelleher, he reviewed with him the concerns that were relayed to him regarding business practices at the agency, including questioning Kelleher about the $50,000 allocated to Harbor Homes by the city and where the money went.
“All questions asked were evaded or the subject changed by the CEO. The CEO did
attempt to contact the former employee during our supervision for clarification with no avail,” Moran states in the email.
He went on to include in that email that the CEO assured him that there we no fraudulent activities occurring at Harbor Homes.
However, when asked why Moran believes these concerns were brushed under the rug, he said, “I think the overarching magnifying glass the Governor’s Office and the (Attorney General’s Office) has on Harbor Homes right now.”
Furthermore, in this email, he questions where a $50,000 grant the city allocated to Harbor Homes went. Allegedly, this money was intended to be used for transportation costs associated with the Safe Stations Program, although in the email, Moran states: “Over 12 months ago the transportation cost and response of calls to the Nashua Safe Station was shifted to the Harbor Homes Mobile Crisis Response Team (MCRT) at the Direction of the Harbor Homes CEO. All transportation cost related to responding to a behavioral health crisis call to a Nashua Fire Department and subsequent transportation to follow up treatment care was fully covered by the MCRT general funds awarded to Harbor Homes by the Bureau of Mental Health Services (BMHS).”
“When I review my mobile crisis budget, the full cost of the lease, gas, staff time for any type of transportation associated with the Safe Stations was allocated to mobile crisis, and there was never a $50,000 allocation of the city funds to the mobile crisis budget when I supervised it,” Moran said.
When Donchess was questioned whether the city allocated $50,000 to Harbor Homes to help fund transportation for the Safe Stations program, Donchess said the city did in fact allocate that sum.
“We’ve done it twice to help with the Safe Stations Program,” Donchess said. “Once about two years ago, and once about a year ago.”
Kelleher said the agency received $50,000 from the city each year which was for general Safe Stations funding. He said part of that expense involved transportation costs.
Moran claims he didn’t see the $50,000 grant paying for transportation.
“The only thing I had knowledge of and was aware of, was that the mobile crisis grant, the $1.2 million that they get every year, was funding all transportation for a behavioral health crisis that was occurring at the fire departments, and in these cases, people seeking treatment for substance use or mental health,” Moran said. “Every time someone picked up someone from the fire department, the gas and the van and the transportation was all allocated to mobile crisis and all the staff time.”
Kelleher said he believes the annual cost to fund transportation services is anywhere from $60,000 to $70,000, which would then indicate that the city’s allocation of $50,000 was not enough to cover costs.
However, he said the agency raised the remaining funds by hosting events such as the annual First Responders Breakfast, which helps support the Safe Stations initiative. He said money raised during that event helped to defray the cost.
Moran claims the New Hampshire Bureau of Drug and Alcohol Services, Bureau of Mental Health Services and Department of Health and Human Services as a whole are holding contracts for Harbor Homes because there was an audit done last year that he describes as being bad.
“So, the Governor’s Office and the Commissioner’s Office, the DHHS was specifically holding contracts before Governor’s Council for approval because Harbor Homes didn’t have enough cash on hand,” Moran said.
Moran alleges state officials wanted Harbor Homes to have 30 days cash on hand, and when Moran left, he estimates they had maybe 12 days cash, and he said that was impacting contracts.
“I don’t have a comment on that,” Councilor Debora Pignatelli said Thursday.
An audit is currently ongoing at Harbor Homes’ 45 High St. location, at least according to Moran.
“At this very moment, I know that the licensing board is auditing 45 High Street’s detox license because they feel that it was being used inappropriately for the level of services that were being provided there,” Moran said.
A spokesperson for Gov. Chris Sununu referred The Telegraph to the attorney general’s office for questions about these allegations. Additionally, DHHS spokesman Jake Leon referred The Telegraph to the AG.
Kelleher said Harbor Homes is aware the AG’s office is investigating the agency. He said Harbor Homes is providing documents and fully cooperating.
“We believe that our organization and related entities are financially strong and will remain so,” Kelleher said.