by Brent Swan
At the April 29th board meeting, the Youth Services Bureau’s (YSB) Board of Directors announced the agency would close after they were found to have withheld nearly $85,000 in federal withholding taxes.
“I believe that in March, (YSB) board members became aware that there was a substantial sum due to the Internal Revenue Service for FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions Act) taxes, which had not been paid over a period of years,” YSB Board Attorney Elden Stoops said. “The information came from a representative of the IRS that had been in contact with the director and had not received the information he had expected.”
According to Stoops, the board was unaware of any outstanding tax issues or any problems of a similar nature up to that point.
“It appears that there are unpaid taxes dating back approximately 10 years,” Stoops explained. “There have been private audits during that time that did not turn up the missing payments; we are not yet sure what happened or how this matter was kept from the board.”
The Youth Services Bureau, a 501(c)3 charitable organization, oversees local programs such as the Community Assistance Program, Child Care Voucher Program, Day Reporting, Food Pantry, Mentoring Programs, Operation Elf, and the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program. Many, if not all, of the programs are expected to continue, but will be forced to search for a new sponsor agency.
The CASA program, according to the YSB website, is responsible for ensuring a volunteer is appointed by the Circuit or Juvenile Courts of Wabash County to act as an advocate for a child that is abused, neglected or involved in a custodial dispute.
The website also states. “CASA volunteers investigate the circumstance surrounding the case, make independent evaluations, and send written reports as to what is in the child’s best interest.”
Indiana state law requires the appointment of either a guardian ad litem or a trained court appointed special advocate, such as a CASA volunteer, for any abuse, neglect, or termination of custody case.
In 1989, the Indiana General Assembly established the office of Court Appointed Special Advocate Services to be administered through the Division of State Court Administration. Ultimately, this formation allowed counties to be eligible to receive matching grants administered by the division. To date CASA programs exist in 73 of the 92 Indiana counties.
Without this program, Wabash County would be forced to hire guardian ad litems for many pending court cases, potentially costing the county thousand of dollars.
“Steps are being taken to bring CASA onto the County payroll,” Stoops said. “There have been meetings, but there are many details to be worked out and I don’t believe that any decisions have been made. However, it is my understanding that the Courts will make sure that CASA continues to serve Wabash County.”
As to the other programs, Stoops said he believes substantial progress has been made to ensure they all find a new home.
The YSB’s board has planned a settlement conference with the IRS in the coming weeks to determine what debts the Bureau is responsible for and to determine what steps should be taken to satisfy the final debt, including liquidation of the YSB’s office building, located at 111 S. Wabash St.
“The YSB does not have any substantial assets other than the building and we have resolved to look for potential buyers,” Stoops said. “There may be insurance coverage, which could provide the funds needed, but that will depend on what the investigation uncovers.”
Stoops went on to say that the board has hired an accountant to help determine what led to the discrepancy, but it is too early in the process to state how the taxes went unpaid.
“At this point, I am not able to form a credible opinion as to whether this was criminal, negligence, or some combination,” Stoops said. “The employee involved had substantial expertise and years of experience, but it has been difficult to get access to the years of records, and we will have to wait for our accountant to help educate us on what happened.”
Former YSB Executive Director Donna Bogert was out of state on vacation when the board became aware of the discrepancy, and to Stoops’ knowledge has yet to return to Indiana.
“As far as police involvement, we aren’t ruling anything out at this time and are seeking answers from many sources, but we also can not state that a crime has been committed,” Stoops said of the process. “The board members and employees of YSB have worked very hard over the years and have provided much needed services to members of the community that need them the most.
“Efforts by agencies such as YSB often go unnoticed other than with the families they serve, but they are one of the keys to the health of our community. To see their efforts end this way has been a shock and a tremendous disappointment – yet their primary concern remains finding a way to make sure that their work continues through other agencies and volunteers.”