March 19, 2012

Embattled housing agency will get new name, director, place

Leaders of an embattled Modesto housing agency have named a new executive director, will change the organization’s name and plan to move the nonprofit to a new location next month. The Stanislaus Community Assistance Project will change its name to Community Impact Central Valley, representatives said Monday.

Leaders of an embattled Modesto housing agency have named a new executive director, will change the organization's name and plan to move the nonprofit to a new location next month.

The Stanislaus Community Assistance Project, commonly known as SCAP, will become Community Impact Central Valley, representatives said Monday.

Tom Shanks, an ethics consultant who has worked with SCAP since September, replaces interim Executive Director Kathy Lee as the agency's top manager. Lee will return to a previous role as chief finance officer, Dana Culbertson was promoted to director of programs and operations, and two positions were cut.

With a $2.5 million annual budget, the group serves about 200 clients with low-cost housing, food and health education services.

Shanks, 62, said he will work under a two-year contract paying him $98,000 annually. The nonprofit will move from its Coffee Road office to a building at Ninth and H streets in downtown Modesto.

The name change takes effect April 2.

Shanks and consultant Jude Barry outlined the changes in a meeting with The Bee on Monday. Those measures and new articles of incorporation were approved by the agency's board of directors last week.

It's an attempt to remake the organization and repair its tattered image after eight years of management by the husband-and-wife team of Denise and Joe Gibbs, SCAP's former executive director and grant writer.

SCAP directors fired the Gibbses "for cause" in late December. The Gibbses are believed to be the focus of an FBI investigation, after agents in early December served search warrants at their Riverbank home and SCAP's office.

Nine months of troubles

In the past nine months, the agency came under scrutiny for a compensation deal that was to have paid $627,000 to Joe Gibbs in the 2009-10 fiscal year, for its spending of public funds to renovate housing and for serious deficiencies in managing dwellings remodeled through Modesto's Neighborhood Stabilization Program.

Joe Gibbs filed a lawsuit against SCAP this month claiming he's owed $496,000.

Shanks said the agency has updated its mission to provide housing and human services to the neediest residents of the area it serves, including homeless veterans.

Joe Gibbs obtained grants and worked real estate deals to expand the agency's reach to include housing in Stanislaus County, Merced, Fresno and Visalia. Shanks said he didn't know why the agency with 11 employees would try to serve clients in places far outside its base in Stanislaus County.

But the agency is assessing the needs of underserved residents in this county. And it hopes to partner with other nonprofits to better serve those people, he said.

"We are working hard to rebuild trust in the agency, and you only rebuild trust by acting with integrity," Shanks said.

In a renewed commitment to transparency, the nonprofit plans to open its board meetings to the public.

Shanks, a former Jesuit priest, is a leadership consultant who works with government, corporate and nonprofit groups to strengthen their ethical practices. He taught for 25 years at Santa Clara University and has been president of The Ethics Co. consulting firm since 2006.

The Bay Area resident said he will move to Modesto to manage Community Impact Central Valley.

The agency will try to mend ties with disenchanted city leaders and groups who believe that SCAP's behavior has subverted the public's trust in other local nonprofit groups.

Council acts to pull funding

The manager for another charity expressed no interest in working with the agency.

"Our advisory board has said there will be no partnership with them," said Capt. Michael Paugh, county coordinator for The Salvation Army in Modesto.

He said a nonprofit with a tarnished record has a hard time restoring its credibility.

"It's not impossible. It would be a long road and a lot of trust to earn back. Trust doesn't happen overnight," Paugh said.

City Councilman Dave Lopez led a council action last week to pull $178,000 in federal funding that had been earmarked for SCAP.

He said he wasn't impressed with the three recent appointments to the agency's board, noting that the new members have social or family ties to people in the organization.

"I don't think that anybody is getting fooled by this," Lopez said. "I am not going to support SCAP and don't think taxpayers will support them if they don't make real changes."

The nonprofit still is expected to comply with a city review in October, which blasted SCAP for poor management of dozens of housing units remodeled with about $8 million in federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds.

SCAP employees or their family members, who had occupied eight of the dwellings, moved out by the end of January. SCAP directors approved a contract last week with Modesto-based GreenGate Property Management to oversee the units and place qualified tenants in the housing.

HUD awards $269K

Shanks said the agency will consider bids before choosing a contractor to complete renovations on unfinished NSP properties, including a 30-unit apartment complex on Coolidge Avenue. Under 15- and 25-year agreements with the city, the nonprofit is expected to provide the rental housing to tenants with long-term illness, mental health disabilities and other special needs.

SCAP's problems didn't stop the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development from awarding $269,000 to the agency last week to provide housing and other support to chronically homeless veterans.

The nonprofit launched the Home of the Brave program in September to provide 11 units of transitional housing for veterans and their families who need assistance.

Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at kcarlson@modbee.com or (209) 578-2321.

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