By Donna Westfall – September 10, 2017 – What happens when you see something on the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors agenda and have questions? Well, you might just call your District Supervisor and inquire as to what is going on.
And that’s what was done about Oxford House Sequoia. If you’ve been following the news locally, you should know by now that it is a residence that houses 10 or 11 women for the sole purpose to maintain their sobriety, then hold a job and become a productive member of society.
All well and good except for a few things.
1.) The umbrella corporation in Maryland, Oxford House, maintains that they do not seek nor want government support. However, our own Heather Snow, Director of Health and Human Services went to the local Oxford House Sequoia and offered them a contract (originally up to $40,000/year) to help out. The State would pay, even though the umbrella corporation states they have no agreement with the State of California.
2.) One of the complaint letters was sent by property owner, Donna Hopkins, wherein she refers to the women losing their “privacy and anonymity.” Guess what? If you want taxpayer money, then there is no anonymity. Where is it stated anyplace that those residents are entitled to anonymity? What is it, a 12 step program? No, it’s not. It’s an Oxford House program and therefore, was supposed to be free from feeding on the taxpayer’s teat.
3.) No one, and I mean NO ONE will let us know who wrote the contract? Is it a secret?
Here’s something that’s not a secret. The local taxpayers association sent an email to the Oxford House umbrella corporation in Maryland to the attention of Blair Tinkle, in their legal department, back on August as follows:
August 16, 2017
o: Oxford House Inc.
ATTN: Blair Tinkle email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
From: Crescent City/Del Norte County Taxpayers Association
Re: Contract between Oxford House Sequoia and the County of Del Norte in California, Oxford House Sequoia at 230 E. Lauff in Crescent City, California, copy of contract attached
Dear Oxford House Inc.,
The Crescent City/Del Norte County Taxpayers Association believes the Oxford House model is highly successful when adhered to. We are asking for clarification on a few matters and any explanation of these matter will be greatly appreciated.
In particular, a contract was recently signed between Oxford House Sequoia in Crescent City, California and the County of Del Norte in California (copy attached). Under the contract, the residents of Oxford House Sequoia in Crescent City, California are now “CONTRACTORS” (attached, Contract pp. 1, 5). The CONTRACTORS are monetarily compensated for “services” provided by the CONTRACTOR residents of Oxford House Sequoia to the County. The monetary compensation is to be used towards the CONTRACTOR/resident’s rent and other living expenses (attached, Contract p. 1; also Attachments “A” and “B”). To the best of our research and understanding, this and Oxford House Beachside, also in Crescent City, may be the only Oxford Houses in the nation with such an agreement.
In summary, the position taken by the Taxpayers Association is that (1) paying rent for the residents up to $26,000 as per the contract, rather than loaning money up to $4,000 as per the Oxford House model, may completely undermine the “self-sufficiency” of the program as well as the quest for individual responsibility as professed in the Oxford model; and, (2) paying the Oxford House Sequoia CONTRACTOR/residents for “services” in exchange for monetary compensation has turned the residence into a for profit center that may be in violation of Oxford House Inc.’s 501(c)(3) non-profit status.
The homeowner has explained to us that the $4,000 loaned to by Oxford House Sequoia does not go very far. However, the homeowner has not offered explanation as to why there is no requirement to pay back the up to $26,000 paid to the Oxford House Sequoia residents for their rent and other living expenses.
Program Director Gene McVae, an employee of Oxford House Inc., is the sole signer of the Contract on behalf of the Oxford House Sequoia CONTRACTOR/residents. We appreciate that Mr. McVae has been open and candid with all questions posed to him. Mr. McVae has offered that people often donate to Oxford House Inc., which complies with Oxford House Inc.’s non-profit status. However, Mr. McVae has not offered explanation as to how offering services in exchange for monetary compensation would not be considered for profit. We allege no wrongdoing on the part of Mr. McVae as he states he was approached by the County with the proposed contract.
There is one other Oxford House in Crescent City, known as Oxford House Beachside located 781 “H” Street. The County entered the same agreement with Oxford House Beachside in 2016 and has regularly compensated the CONTRACTOR/residents for the “services” provided.
We at the Taxpayers Association believe all these circumstances are highly unusual and contradict the good model set forth by Oxford House Inc. We are currently investigating into whether fraud is involved as all parties involved deny having written or proposed the Contract.
Other points have come to our attention including that the CONTRACTOR/residents decide whether they will pay their own rent each month or whether to bill the County for “services”.
We also ask for confirmation as to whether Oxford House Beachside and Oxford House Sequoia are chartered by Oxford House Inc.
Wesley Nunn III, Director
Jackie Simosen, Secretary
NOTE: Actual signatures attached as separate doc
cc: All board members
These are simple questions that should have simple answers. Instead, here’s what’s happening. In an email response by Kathleen Gibson at Oxford House dated September 5th: