The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

November 16, 2012

Joplin office of Community Employment closes after investigation into company’s billing practices statewide


From staff, AP reports

JOPLIN, Mo. — The Joplin office of Community Employment Inc., 515 S. Main St., has closed after the state severed its relationship with the company and launched an investigation into billing practices.

Leslie Abram, Rapid Response coordinator for the state’s Workforce Investment Board, met with employees of the Joplin office earlier this week and confirmed the closing.

“I was told there were about 15 working there. I met with the staff Wednesday and there were 11 people in attendance.”

Missouri education officials on Friday, Nov. 9, canceled a contract with the nonprofit group that has offices statewide to help disabled people find jobs. State officials cited falsified billing documents.

The company allegedly submitted more than $54,000 in false bills to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's vocational rehabilitation program, Jeanne Loyd, the assistant commissioner for the Office of Adult Learning and Rehabilitation Services, said today.

The Springfield-based nonprofit has reimbursed the state nearly $21,000 so far, she said.

Loyd said problems were found with numerous offices around the state, including the one in Joplin.

Lloyd also said Community Employment had falsified billing documents to make it appear clients got jobs when they really didn't, or to indicate that clients had worked more days than they actually did. The problems initially were discovered in the St. Louis office, she said, and then in the Kansas City office this summer.

At that point the department stopped referring new clients to the organization, Lloyd said.

“We branched out then statewide,” she said, including the Springfield-Joplin office. “They are the third largest catchment area of clients.

“We did have more (problems) in Joplin than in Springfield. I can’t tell you how many.”

Officials at Community Employment in Joplin and Springfield have not returned calls for comment.