Ethics leaders want to see 'real changes' from Modesto nonprofit

jnsbranti@modbee.comNovember 9, 2011 

Two nationally recognized ethics leaders recommend that a controversial Modesto nonprofit agency take “strong and decisive actions” to implement “real changes and reform.”

The consultants submitted their confidential report Wednesday afternoon to the Stanislaus Community Assistance Project’s board of directors.

Tom Shanks, who owns The Ethics Company, and Jude Barry, the chief executive at Catapult Strategies, interviewed more than two dozen SCAP employees, clients and board members the last two months.

“We’ve done a lot of work because we know how important and urgent this is,” Barry said. “We were open to listening and learning. … And we’re making serious recommendations based on what people said to us.”

SCAP has been under fire since late spring when news broke about a $627,000 compensation package for Joe Gibbs, who is married to Denise Gibbs, the agency’s chief executive officer.

Later stories detailed how Denise Gibbs’ parents, assorted SCAP staff members and their relatives were living in SCAP homes, which had been paid for with taxpayer dollars.

The city of Modesto and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development also are investigating how SCAP spent more than $8 million in federal stimulus money. There have been concerns about how much taxpayer money SCAP spent to buy and renovate foreclosed Modesto properties.

“We want to get to the bottom of what is wrong and what needs to be changed,” SCAP board president Jonathan D’Attilio said Wednesday morning before he had seen the ethics report. “We are going to do the right thing at SCAP. By this time next year, we will have implemented some changes everybody can be happy with.”

Barry would not reveal what’s in the ethics report, other than to assure “it recommends strong and decisive actions … for real changes and reform.”

The Bee contacted Barry on Wednesday after hearing reports that SCAP had fired him and Shanks. Barry said he also had heard that rumor, and he was anxious to deny it.

“It is a false rumor that perhaps was started by someone who does not want us to finish our work and is resistant to reform and change,” Barry said.

Barry did not offer his opinion about how Denise and Joe Gibbs have managed SCAP, but he stressed how impressed he is with the dedication of the agency’s non-management employees.

“We have gone to great pains to protect employee identities (in our report),” said Barry, noting how employees are scared about revealing what has been happening at the nonprofit. “We want people to know the risk they took in talking to us was not wasted.”

Barry said he and Shanks want to work with SCAP’s staff “to implement policies and procedures, including an ethical code of conduct.”

D’Attilio said some changes already are under way, including notifying “anybody associated with SCAP” — such as employees and their family members — that they must move out of SCAP housing within 90 days. He said tenants with such conflicts of interest were found in eight SCAP homes.

D’Attilio, who joined the SCAP board in June, said SCAP is working “to follow human resource guidelines” in making personnel changes.

“You are going to see some very concrete changes in the next four weeks,” D’Attilio promised. He also announced:

&%149; Carlos Villapudua, a commercial lending officer for Bank of the West, has been appointed to SCAP’s board of directors. The other board members are D’Attilio, Roger Stirlen, Tom Drury, Daniel Malakauskas and Patrick Pokorny.

&%149; Leo Briones, a Los Angeles-based public relations consultant, no longer is working for SCAP. Briones had been SCAP’s spokesman from June through October.

&%149; SCAP received a “monitoring response letter” from the city of Modesto in regard to the nonprofit agency’s role in the Neighborhood Stabilization Program. The Bee on Wednesday asked the city’s staff for a copy of that letter and SCAP’s response to it, but that information was not made available.

Bee staff writer J.N. Sbranti can be reached at jnsbranti@modbee.com or (209) 578-2196.

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