Reply to a Reply to a Comment on TAG’s Going Out of Business

This comment from Patrick Ouimet was placed under the reply from a friend of McHenry County Blog that was published yesterday:

To: The Anonymous Friend Of The McHenry County Blog:

Thank you for your response. In fairness to the many readers who may not have had time to review this story’s full history, I have taken the liberty of briefly summarizing the facts giving rise to the question asked, the response provided, and this reply. Again, if any of the facts set forth below are incorrect, please feel free to let me know.

The Advantage Group building

The Advantage Group building

The Advantage Group Foundation (TAG or Agency) is a not-for-profit agency that provides chemical dependency treatment services to adolescents and young adults in McHenry County and elsewhere. http://www.advantage.org

According to news reports, TAG receives “about 30% of its funding from the McHenry County Health Board, 30% from the Illinois Department of Human Services Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, and the remaining 40% comes from contracts, private insurance and Medicaid payments.” http://www.nwherald.com/2013/04/23/judge-tosses-treatment-center-lawsuit..

The McHenry County Health Board (MCH) is a community mental health board established by the County of McHenry pursuant to the Illinois Community Mental Health Act, 405 ILCS 20/1 et seq. See http://www.abisoft.org/opinions/2013/3_12-cv-50374_20130423.pdf; The Advantage Group Foundation vs. McHenry County Mental Health Board, Cause No. 12 C 50374, Memorandum and Opinion (J. Reinhard, April 23, 2013). The MCH levies a tax for the purpose of providing community mental health services and facilities. In the year 2012, the MCH received approximately $13 million in tax revenues to fulfill its mission. Id.

In or about August – September 2013, TAG requested $49,000.00 dollars from the MCH. Paula Yensen, Democrat County Board member from District 5, and a member of the MCH, initially supported TAG’s funding request. http:// http://www.mchenrydems.org./stop_the_smear_of_paul_yensen However, after an exhaustive review of TAG’s billing practices, its financial condition, board supervision, and political activities, Ms. Yensen’s initial confidence in TAG and its management led her to conclude that providing TAG with additional taxpayer funds was not in the best interests the taxpayers of McHenry County. Id.

TAG withdrew its request for additional funding and subsequently closed its doors. http://www.nwherald.com/2013/09/25/officials-hopeful-for-advantage-groups-future-after-setback . Shortly thereafter, in an article appearing on this Blog entitled “The Advantage Group (TAG) Sunsets” (http://mchenrycountyblog.com/2013/10/10/the-advantage-group-tag-sunsets), Republican County Board members, Michael Walkup and Donna Kurtz, decided to place all blame for TAG’s closing on Paula Yensen while omitting to inform the public of the very real concerns that the MCH and other members of the McHenry County Board had with TAG’s financial mismanagement, investigations over billing irregularities, board supervision, and improper political campaign activities. Id.

In response to Messrs. Kurtz’s and Walkup’s criticisms, I asked each to respond to the following question:

“Is it wise for an elected public official to give $49,000.00 in taxpayer monies to an Agency”:

1. Under investigation for improper billing irregularities by the Office of the Inspector General of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services;

2. An Agency that was audited by MCH which discovered, upon review of 16 randomly selected patient files from 2008 through 2011, that improper billing documentation time was noted in all sixteen files examined, including but not limited to, multiple funders were billed and paid for the same hours of service, that the agency collected more than its stated charges for services rendered with no evidence that any of the payers were reimbursed, and that service recipients were covered by Medicaid and those services were billed to both Medicaid and MCH with no evidence that the agency refunded the overpayments or reported the billing errors to Medicaid or MCH. See http://www.abisoft.org/opinions/2013/3_12-cv-50374_20130423.pdf, The Advantage Group Foundation vs. McHenry County Mental Health Board, et al., Cause No. 12 C 50374; United States District Court Memorandum Opinion dated April 23, 2013, J. Reinhard, Judge Presiding; see also “Judge tosses treatment center lawsuit”, http://www.nwherald.com/2013/04/23/judge-tosses-treatment-center-lawsuit.

3. An Agency that was subject to a request by MCH seeking reimbursement of over $1 million dollars in taxpayer monies because the audit concluded “that since 100% of the files reviewed were found not to have had coordination of benefits applied and to have had documentation time improperly billed, using extrapolation, the MCH found all fee for service billings submitted by the agency to MCH to be subject to recoupment for the years 2009, 2010, and 2011 in the amount of $1,083,817.65.” Id.;

4. An agency, that when asked to respond to the findings and conclusions contained in the MCH audit, chose instead to file a federal lawsuit against MCH and others which was summarily dismissed by the Court. Id.; and

5. An agency that violated IRS rules prohibiting 501(c)(3) not-for-profits from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective office when the agency hosted a complimentary luncheon at its headquarters for a candidate seeking political office and allowed numerous postings on its corporate Facebook page in support of political candidates. See http://www.mchenrydems.org/stop_the_smear_of_paula_yensen (IRS Rules & Exemplars of Political Activity Conducted By TAG).

While Messrs. Kurtz and Walkup have chosen not respond to the question asked, you have done so. Accordingly, I take this opportunity and invitation to submit this reply for your review and consideration.

A. In your response, you do not dispute that the agency is being investigated for billing irregularities by the Office of the Inspector General. You argue that the investigation was commenced by MCH staff and counsel in retribution for TAG’s filing of a federal lawsuit and that the investigation is simply “part of an ongoing comprehensive witch-hunt”. Irrespective of motive, the fact remains clear: The agency is being investigated by the Office of the Inspector General for improper billing irregularities.

B. You also do not dispute the fact that the scope of the OIG investigation includes improper billing to Medicaid, private health insurers and MCH for the same services performed for the same client. Rather, you argue that the Agency’s billing practices are lawful and MCH has it wrong. Whether you or MCH has it right or wrong does not call into question the accuracy of the statement that TAG is under investigation by the OIG for improper billing practices.

C. You do not dispute the fact that MCH conducted an audit of 16 randomly selected patient files from your Agency and found billing errors in each file. Instead, you argue that improper billings amounting to 1% of all clients served is deminimis and that the audit was improperly conducted. Again, whether improper billings in the amount 1% of taxpayers dollars is deminimis as suggested, or that the audit was not properly conducted, in no way detracts from the fact that MCH conducted an audit on 16 randomly selected patients files and found billing irregularities in 100% of those files. Surely, 1% of taxpayers’ dollars, or improperly billing 1% of your clients is not an acceptable business practice. This is all the more true when the money at issue is taxpayer money.

D. You do not dispute the fact that a federal lawsuit was filed to block MCH’s attempt to recoup over $1 million dollars in taxpayer funds improperly billed. Rather, you argue that it was the agency that filed the lawsuit not MCH. However, you omit to tell the readers that that lawsuit was dismissed by the Court. The point is that MCH is seeking over $1 million dollars on behalf of the taxpayers of McHenry County due to what it believes are improper billing irregularities by your Agency. The argument that it was the Agency that filed the lawsuit is irrelevant.

E. You do not dispute the fact that the Agency engaged in political activity prohibited by IRS Rules regulating 501(c)(3)’s. You argue that since the IRS has not reprimanded or taken legal action against the Agency at this time, the Agency committed no wrong. Again, whether the IRS decides to take any action against Agency is irrelevant. The fact remains that your agency, a not-for-profit entity, engaged in political campaign activity as evidenced by the documents posted at http://www.mchenrydems.org/stop_the_smear_of_paula_yensen.

F. Finally, you do not dispute that the Agency advised the public that it could survive without additional taxpayer funding. Instead, you argue that “due to unfounded allegations and ongoing assault of TAG by MHB staff and attorney, TAG was not funded by the MHB for over 2 ½ years … “, and that the MHB … “refused to insure that TAG received the necessary funding to continue to serve McHenry County.” The question is whether the Agency could have survived without MCH funding. On the one hand, the Agency states that it could, and other it claims that its demise was due to lack of funding by the MHB. If the Agency’s statement that it could survive without MHB funding is true, then why would the Agency have asked the taxpayers of McHenry County for $49,000.00 dollars in additional public funds to keep it afloat. If, however, that statement is not true, why would the taxpayers of McHenry County provide additional funding to an Agency under investigation for improper billing activities and financial mismanagement. Would you give your neighbor $50,000.00 dollars of your money if he/she was being investigated for financial mismanagement and told you he/she really didn’t need it? If you wouldn’t, why would expect anything less from an elected official like Paula Yensen.

Again, the only issue presented is whether it is proper for elected pubic officials to give taxpayer monies to entities such as TAG where the evidence reveals substantial mismanagement, lack of board oversight, billing irregularities, and where the Agency itself says it doesn’t need the money. As an elected County Board member, Paula Yensen is entrusted with a fiduciary responsibility to ensure that taxpayer monies are spent wisely and not wasted. That is exactly what she did in this case.

Here, a taxpayer funded agency requested $49,000.00 dollars in public monies to fund its operations. Ms. Yensen carefully reviewed the facts and noted that (i) the Agency’s own CEO publicly stated that the Agency did not need the money, (ii) the Agency requesting the taxpayer funds was currently under investigation for improper billing irregularities, (iii) the County itself was seeking recoupment of over $1 million dollars in taxpayer funds due to billing irregularities by the Agency, (iv) the Agency filed a federal lawsuit against the MCH blocking its attempt to recoup the $1million dollars in taxpayer monies and lost, and (v) the Agency engaged in improper political campaign activities prohibited under IRS Rules governing 501(c)(3)’s.

Based on the above facts, Paula Yensen correctly decided that giving this Agency $49,000.00 dollars in additional taxpayer’s funds, was not in the best interest of the taxpayers of McHenry County or her fiduciary duties to the taxpayers of the County. In my opinion, Paula Yensen was right and should be thanked for her good stewardship and protection of taxpayer funds. Despite the hue and cry, Ms. Yensen’s decision was not about politics, it was about good governance and good stewardship of public funds.

Respectfully submitted,

Patrick Martin Ouimet

Former Chairman of the McHenry
County Democratic Central Committee


Comments

Reply to a Reply to a Comment on TAG’s Going Out of Business — 25 Comments

  1. This character is sure going through a lot of minutiae, in defending the self-proclaimed Grande Dame of Mac County Dems.

    When he should be preparing with State Dem nabobs, for the onslaught of ticked off voters, their buddy in the White House has created for them.

    Obamacare will prove to be the biggest Gov. fiasco ever, as folks accidently enroll in three different programs, some others thinking their enrolled and are not and one State reporting a total of one successful enrollee, all with a penalty deadline of March 1st.

    Just wait till folks come out of the ether and figure out this Dem program, is extracting $6 K in additional tax, out of each family per year, beginning Jan 1.

    Instead of wasting time on this drivel, he should start building a bunker and going into full survivalist mode, to escape the wrath of a lot of p’d off people in 6 month’s.

  2. In all fairness?

    What has been fair about any of this stuff?

    The claim that after an “exhaustive review” amounts to looking at a facebook page with 5 pictures.

    Sounds like the audit conducted by the MHB.

    So a couple of hours compared to 26 years of important service to our community justifies Ms. Yensens actions?

    Sounds like the offenders have become the victims overnight.

    But keep trying to convince the public…

    Ms. Yensen is but a long line of those in power attempting to ensure they keep it no matter what the cost.

    The community is not as stupid as you think.

  3. Last night’s reply to Mr. Ouimet’s “comment” referenced above:

    “To Patrick Ouimet: Blah, blah, blah!

    The same old unfounded allegations that you and unnamed friends have repeated on this blog and likely passed on to the Northwest Herald. Just because you repeat it does not mean it is true.”

  4. No one trusts politicians.

    The emergency funds to TAG were to be given months ago but the staff in collusion with certain board members did everything they could to stall it.

    So in four days, Ms. Yensen comes up with this?

    Talk about mismanagement and lack of fiscal responsibility and she doesn’t even look at the board she is sitting on?

    14 million in tax payer dollars mismanaged!

    2 million spent on the MHB itself.

    300,000 in computer for one year?

    The list goes on and on.

    Yensen did not take this false concern to anyone and made her own grandstand in public to further smear TAG.

    Lies have a way of being revealed and all anyone has to do is look at the minutes of the Public Health and Human Services Committee to see that she had only her own political agenda operating here.

    All the sources quoted here are the Democratic web site and the NW Herald.

    Now there is objective reporting of the so called “facts”.

    We are not that stupid Patrick.

  5. Tiny Dancer, could it be that the Mental Health Board is changing the landscape to make Pyle’s legal problems look like a domestic issue, rather then mental illness?

    We need to protect the children.

    Nygren has way too much power.

  6. Pat’s lengthy screed comes down to just a couple of points:

    (1) There was an audit done of TAG by MHB which allegedly showed billing irregularities to one degree or another in all 16 of 16 files that they examined.

    This “audit” was performed by social workers who did not use correct statistical protocols and is at variance with a large number of independent audits done by real auditors using correct methods over many years including the years in question and which found nothing wrong. How is it that one audit finds that everything is wrong and others, which are more professionally done, find nothing? That seems very odd to me.

    (2) TAG is under “investigation” by OIG. The attorney for MHB, who was hip deep in the attempt to crush TAG, filed a complaint with OIG. A complaint is not an “investigation”. Anyone can file a complaint. Moreover, the complaint is based on the same flawed audit so it is pure bootstrapping to say that the OIG involvement, whatever that is, constitutes anything additional at this point.

    (3) TAG filed a federal lawsuit which it “lost”.

    The TAG lawsuit, in order to get off the ground in federal court, has to show federal jurisdiction. The federal courts are limited in what they can hear. I can’t go into all of the law of federal jurisdiction at this point. There is an entire course in law school just on this. Suffice it to say that the case did not ever get to first base due to lack of a federal question. TAG did not elect to pursue anything in the local state courts. Therefore, there has been no finding on the merits by any court.

    (4) There was prohibited political activity.

    The political activity was very minimal and is unlikely to result in any real action by the IRS. No complaint has been filed with the IRS. Half of the churches in America flagrantly violate this provision every Sunday when the preachers endorse various candidates and causes, and nothing is ever done. The MHB would still have been able to fund TAG even if they were to lose non profit status so this is a red herring.

    (5) Pat Owens made too much money one year.

    Pat provided services for two years with little or no compensation. MHB does not generally look at the compensation rates of CEO’s in deciding on grant allocations. Pat was also billing for counseling services that she performed herself.

    A just released study in the JAMA Internal Medicine magazine shows the average compensations for CEO’s of non profit hospitals in the entire country and broken down into urban vs rural areas. Why doesn’t the MHB start looking at that in terms of local hospitals that it funds? This is another red herring.

    No one has yet answered my questions as to how people will be able to find the same type of treatment they received at TAG anywhere in McHenry County at this point. That is not a red herring. That is very real.

  7. Mike Walkup, thank you for being honest and presenting the facts as they should be.

    You are one of the few that act with honesty and integrity and are not willing to be persuaded by peer pressure in politics.

    You really do have the best interest of the community at heart and Mchenry County could use more people like you on the side of the hard working tax payers…

  8. Maybe it’s time for a “NON VIOLENT” protest…..

    Calling all citizens from Mchenry County.

    Time to “BOYCOTT THE NORTHWEST HERALD” Ghandi would have called it “Non Violent Protest”

    Remember the Montgomery Bus Boycott, in which African Americans refused to ride city buses in Montgomery Alabama to protest segregated seating?

    As a result, the United States Supreme Court ordered Montgomery to integrate the bus system.

    It’s a thought.

    Come on Mchenry County how about it?

    Cancel your newspaper subscriptions and buy the Tribune….

    Kevin Lyons will have plenty of time to play his favorite game of cards with “DA BOYS”

  9. Thank you Mr. Walkup.

    Finally, there are County Board members willing to risk the onslaught of viscious attacks for the truth.

    You are my personal hero and soon you will be the hero of many others.

    This is what we want in our leaders.

    Sorry Mr. Ouimet but you are on the wrong side of this issue and your only source the perpetrator?

    The more you defend, the more guilty you all look.

  10. Thank you Mr. Walkup.

    You are right.

    This community has lost a valuable agency.

    If the smear against Paula Yensen is that she closed TAG then its not a smear but the fact.

    Minimally, she dealt the final political blow which is ironic because that is what she accused TAG of?

    This all stinks!

    I am with you Donald.

    Mr. Walkup is my new hero!

  11. Just like every other member of the McHenry County Republican “Good Ol’ Boys Club”, Mr. Walkup suggests that tax-payers should just ignore tax-payer subsidized illegal political activity just because “everyone does it” and “it’s no big deal.”

    Taxpayers in McHenry County deserve far better than this kind of cynicism.

    Sadly, this very same club would be the first to complain about “Cook County” politics.

    Political corruption should be rooted out, not glossed over and funded with tax-payer dollars, whether in Cook County or Mchenry County.

    Furthermore, Mr. Walkup wants to gloss over the exorbitant compensation TAG Executive Director Owens was paid.

    Per TAG’s tax returns filed with the IRS, Ms. Owens was paid $204,000 plus $10,000 in benefits in 2009, $187,000 plus $7,000 in benefits in 2010, and another $199,000 in 2011 (2012 not filed yet).

    On top of that, the CFO of TAG was paid $97,000 plus $13,000 in benefits in 2009, $88,000 plus $9,000 in benefits in 2010, and another $98,000 in 2011.

    These salaries, each subsidized with tax-payer dollars, are far in excess of persons holding similar positions in other area not for profit counseling and treatment centers (see chart previously posted here: http://www.mchenrydems.org/stop_the_smear_of_paula_yensen ).

    The excess money paid to the top two managers at TAG could have been used to delivery services to those much in need in McHenry County, and kept TAG in business.

  12. Did Mr. Ouimet issue his missive at this time to divert attention from the fact the grand dame of the McHenry Dems is vacationing in the Barbados?

  13. “Adam Revere” you have it all wrong…

    You clearly don’t have all the facts.

    Not sure what your motives are…

    I have lived in this community long enough to know that Mike Walkup is not a part of the good old boys club….

    You just turn that finger of yours right around and point it at the real participants of political corruption..

    You entered the game far to late to know what is really happening in Mchenry County Politics…

    Or maybe you are just one more “BIG FAT CHARADE” like Keith Nygren and Andy Zinke..

  14. Your awesome Michael Walkup.

    When no one has anything valid to say- they resort to character assassination .

    There is nothing better for the politicians of this town to do such as address the government issues?

    TAG is gone- move on!

  15. PLEASE, Adam Revere, “political corruption”, “subsidized illegal political activity”, “exorbitant compensation”?

    Please spare us such unfounded drama!

    People are not that stupid.

    Just two days ago someone said to me “my son received help from TAG ten years ago, I can’t believe those people destroyed that agency that has been helping people for 26 years”.

  16. Mr. Walkup- you have my vote.

    Your courage to defend those that can’t defend themselves and to stand up to these political bullies is admirable.

    The truth about what is behind the systematic attacks in TAG for two years will probably never be revealed.

    1.4 million given to the failed Family Services with no questions asked, the almost complete turn over of the MHB board, the 4 million of a14 million dollar budget kept for strictly MHB operating costs…all will be swept under the rug.

    So, I agree with DGG32- focus on cleaning up the reputation of the Mental Health Board and getting services to the community.

    Move on and get to important work.

  17. I have not seen a solution offered to serve the needs of our community.

    As a point of clarification, there apparently two of us named Mary Margaret.

    I would not say Mike Walkup is a hero.

  18. May I suggest all of the above look VERY closely and deeper at the County Board for devious reasons. Voting for less transparency were

    Michele Aavang
    Nick Chirikos
    Sue Draftkorn
    Joe Gottemoller
    Tina Hill
    Ken Koehler
    Mary McCann
    Mary McClellan
    Anna May Miller
    Robert Nowak
    Carolyn Schofield
    Paula Yensen

    This, pretty much, says it all.

    They do NOT want you to know the truth.

  19. Mary Margaret Maule: Glad you cleared up the name confusion. You wouldn’t want to have a Democrat endorsing a Republican.

    I too am searching for the answer of who, what and how the needs of the community are going to be met. Hopefully our County Board Committee can do some investigation.

    Meanwhile, efforts are afoot to try and remove Donna Kurtz as Chair of the PHHS committee before we can name any further appointments to the Mental Health Board.

    Every good thing that has happened in the past year on the mental health front is the product of Donna’s tireless efforts.

    She deserves everyone’s support now as the backlash has started.

  20. It does not surprise me that they would go after Donna Kurtz.

    After all, she is one of few who’s actions demonstrate integrity.

    Their actions are politically motivated and have personal political agendas targeting those who seek the truth.

    Donna Kurtz is just one more target for them….

    You are right Mike, Donna Kurtz does nothing but tireless work on behalf of the tax payers…

    If they get rid of her our tax payers really have something to worry about…..

  21. @Duncan Mchenry :The Donna Kurtz purge is being orchestrated by the 3 witches who’s names are on this list:

    Nick Chirikos
    Sue Draftkorn
    Joe Gottemoller
    Tina Hill
    Ken Koehler
    Mary McCann
    Mary McClellan
    Anna May Miller
    Robert Nowak
    Carolyn Schofield
    Paula Yensen

  22. Let me guess: Tina Hill, Paula Yenson, and Ann May Miller.

    Right..

    BIG… BIG…Nygren Supporters.

    Ann May Miller had the fund raiser for Zinke..

    Now that speaks volumes…

    Ok tax payers now we know who we really need to get of….

    Paula Yenson should resign because of the TAG fiasco…

  23. Paula Yensen resigning is the only honorable things she could do.

    The TAG fiasco will only grow.

    Miller, McCann, and Hill have conveniently put the political noose around her neck and Yensen will take the fall for it.

    Its actually brilliant “strategery” by the Republicans!

    UNITY MOVING FORWARD!

    And by political noose I do not mean any bodily harm or injury to Ms. Yensen – I am simply saying she is being hung out to dry.

    She will be the “fall guy”. Sheesh!

  24. Please go to: http://www.mchenrycounty1981.com

    Please read comments at the end of each story…

    Paula Yenson and her comrades need to go….

    She has demonstrated again and again that her decisions are based on personal and political gain and that her decisions have nothing to with the best interest of the tax payers of Mchenry County..

    When you see her in the store or out in public, let her know how disappointed you are with her choices… “TIME TO IMPEACH PAULA YENSON”

    BYE PAULA YOU ARE NO LONGER WELCOME AS A REPRESENTATIVE OF MCHENRY COUNTY TAX PAYERS”

    NOW PAULA YOU CAN EITHER RESIGN OR THE TAX PAYERS WILL FIND A WAY TO REMOVE YOU FROM THE COUNTY BOARD”……

    BYE PAULA and you can take TINA HILL and ANNA MAY MILLER with you……..

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