October 22,2010

Grassley: Latest Report of Legal Aid Spending on Club Dues and Meals, Leased Car Shows Continued Oversight Lapses

WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley said the latest report describing private club dues and meals and a leased vehicle for personal use at a legal aid group in Baton Rouge, La., shows the Legal Services Corporation needs to conduct much better oversight of its funding recipients.

“Even as the parent organization says it’s improving oversight, we get yet another report of taxpayer spending abuses,” Grassley said. “These are dollars that are supposed to help poor people with their legal expenses, not pay for private club memberships or leased cars, used for both business and personal use.  The latest report is more evidence that the Legal Services Corporation needs to overhaul its oversight of legal aid programs.”

The new report from the Legal Services Corporation inspector general documents spending abuses by the Capital Area Legal Services Corp. in Baton Rouge, La.  Several legal aid groups around the country have been targeted for diverting tax dollars meant for legal aid to executives’ personal spending.  In September, the former finance director of the Maryland Legal Aid Bureau pleaded guilty to stealing more than $1 million from the group.

Grassley and Rep. Darrell Issa have ongoing oversight of the Legal Services Corporation’s efforts to improve grantee oversight.  The Legal Services Corporation is the government’s main program to help low-income people with civil legal matters.

The audit report on the Capital Area Legal Services Corp. in Baton Rouge, La., is available here.

A news story on the Baton Rouge case from the non-profit Center for Public Integrity is available here.