Emails shed light on grant spending for Metro fatherhood program - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Emails shed light on grant spending for Metro fatherhood program

NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

Your federal tax dollars are helping pay for a program with a worthy goal: helping men become better fathers. But new information is raising new concerns.

A few months ago, the Channel 4 I-Team reported that the federal government had serious concerns about how the Metro Health Department spent grant money for the fatherhood program.

Now, we've obtained more than 20,000 pages of insider emails and documents from the Metro Health Department that are shedding new light on exactly what your tax dollars paid for.

A July canoe and kayak trip down the Stones River turned into one wild ride for participants in the federally funded New Life program.

According to one supervisor's account, "The group would not listen to instructions. Kids were flipping boats over intentionally, flipping boats of their friends [and] smoking cigarettes."

The program is part of the Metro Health Department, and Robert Taylor is the man in charge.

The Channel 4 I-Team asked how many fathers were on the trip.

"I believe there was one teen on the trip who was a father, but I would have to check to make sure," Taylor said. "Most of the teens were children who had fathers who had participated in the New Life program."

After following up, the health department told Channel 4 that they believed the one teen who was a father had already dropped out of the program before the trip.

It turns out the teens were part of a summer program at Hadley Park, one that featured weekly field trips to places like Nashville Shores and the Wave Pool.

Taylor justifies the summer program as helping fathers because while they're not on field trips, the teens talk about why it's important to postpone fatherhood.

"We want to make sure that anyone who becomes a father is prepared for that situation. So we work with fathers before they have children," Taylor said.

Feedback from the kids who participated in the summer program was positive, but, overall, federal officials raised red flags about how the Metro Health Department has been spending taxpayer dollars.

The multi-year program is funded by a $4.8 million grant.

The 20,000 pages of emails show that Taylor repeatedly pushed to spend grant money to pay for items that Metro's own finance people said were "completely unallowable."

For example, during that wild canoe trip, Metro lost three boats, two kayaks and a canoe, in the swift water.

Taylor wanted to use $2,000 in federal money to pay for the lost canoes and he asked if they could be called "supplies."

The e-mails also showed Taylor was under fire for trying to bill the federal government for a $10,000 alarm system at the Martha O'Bryan Center.

The Martha O'Bryan administration wanted the alarm system because some of the fathers meeting there for the New Life program had criminal records.

Metro finance officers told Taylor it wasn't allowed under the grant, and he wrote them, "We need to find a way to cover the cost in the contract."

The I-Team asked Taylor why he sought approval for the expense after the alarm system had already been installed.

"We were going to make the request and if it's denied, then it's denied," he said.

Federal officials also questioned why grant money was earmarked for a kitchen remodel job that was never finished. Internal emails indicate no one could provide receipts for $21,000 of work that was supposedly done.

The federal government gave the fatherhood program a scathing review.

In unraveling what went wrong, Taylor's former supervisor concluded that he had "authorized contractors to make major purchases without consulting finance."

Still, Taylor defended his actions.

"If you look at overall grant funding, we follow policies and procedures," he said.

Taylor said the work his program does, is needed.

"There are fathers out there that can benefit from this program," he said.

Copyright 2014 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

  • More from WMCTV.COMMore>>

  • Trending StoriesTrending StoriesMore>>

  • Severe reaction to new sandals leads woman on a painful path

    Severe reaction to new sandals leads woman on a painful path

        One woman wants to warn people about her painful path, the result of a severe and debilitating allergic reaction.  She had no idea what she was allergic to until she visited a fourth emergency room in two weeks.    

    More >>

    One woman wants to warn people about her painful path, the result of a severe and debilitating allergic reaction. She had no idea what she was allergic to until she visited a fourth emergency room in two weeks.    

    More >>
  • 'The Phantom' serial killer of children out of prison, living in Tucson

    'The Phantom' serial killer of children out of prison, living in Tucson

    Thursday, April 27 2017 12:17 AM EDT2017-04-27 04:17:43 GMT
    Friday, April 28 2017 11:32 PM EDT2017-04-29 03:32:02 GMT
    Convicted killer William Huff was spotted riding his bicycle through a Tucson neighborhood. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)Convicted killer William Huff was spotted riding his bicycle through a Tucson neighborhood. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

    William Huff terrorized Sierra Vista during the spring and summer of 1967. Despite a sentence of 40 years to life, the Arizona Board of Executive Clemency voted to release him from prison into home arrest. Family members of the victims are concerned for the safety of the community, as are new members of the Clemency Board. CBS 5 Investigates videotaped Huff riding a bike through his Tucson neighborhood. There are no restrictions placed on his proximity to children.

    More >>

    William Huff terrorized Sierra Vista during the spring and summer of 1967. Despite a sentence of 40 years to life, the Arizona Board of Executive Clemency voted to release him from prison into home arrest. Family members of the victims are concerned for the safety of the community, as are new members of the Clemency Board. CBS 5 Investigates videotaped Huff riding a bike through his Tucson neighborhood. There are no restrictions placed on his proximity to children. 

    More >>
  • 'I got 2 clips!' Impatient mom pulls out gun, threatens barber cutting son's hair

    'I got 2 clips!' Impatient mom pulls out gun, threatens barber cutting son's hair

    Friday, April 28 2017 5:45 PM EDT2017-04-28 21:45:21 GMT
    (Source: Crime Stoppers of Cuyahoga County Facebook)(Source: Crime Stoppers of Cuyahoga County Facebook)

    Police are looking for a woman who pointed a gun at a barber all because her son's haircut was taking too long.

    More >>

    Police are looking for a woman who pointed a gun at a barber all because her son's haircut was taking too long.

    More >>
Powered by Frankly