Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Waveland Police Enter BSL

Waveland, relief group tussle over donations, records
WAVELAND - City officials and police officers here crossed city lines into Bay St. Louis earlier this month hoping for access into a warehouse full of Katrina-relief donations, according to volunteers.
Waveland wanted possession of hundreds of files and records used to track the donations and grant money funneled to Hancock County through volunteer relief groups, Waveland officials and volunteers told the Sun Herald.
Bay St. Louis police confirmed last week that they were called to a warehouse at the old Alcan facility on Central Avenue to defuse a situation between Waveland cops and Kathleen Johnson, an Illinois native, who has been coordinating volunteer efforts here since September 2005.
Waveland police attempted to seize the files on Jan. 2, about 10 hours before Alderman Charles Piazza announced his push for a state-sponsored investigation into financial practices at City Hall.
That night, Piazza told the Board of Aldermen that he wanted the State Auditor's Office to examine the city's bankroll and use of Katrina-relief donations. Johnson plans to attend the Board of Aldermen meeting Wednesday and Piazza said he hopes to have aldermen vote on his proposed request for a state audit.
Link From Kathleen

1/31 New Article
Volunteer Kathleen Johnson, who works intimately with arguably the most important non-profit group in the city of Waveland, has served time in federal prison for charges of bank fraud, fraudulent use of social security numbers, and fraud relating to student loans. According to records from the United States Bureau of Prisons and by her own admission, Kathleen Joan Johnson, 55, was convicted in Cheyenne, Wy. in August. 1992 of the three charges.
Johnson served four months in prison and spent three years on probation, federal officials said Monday.
Johnson said Tuesday, the events took place a long time ago and there were a lot of unique circumstances surrounding it. She said she had lost her social security card and she gained another number through medical records. She said the second number was not hers and she used it for years before it was discovered when she went back to school. She said she was going through a bitter divorce and child custody battle at the time and all of these factors had a hand in her conviction. Contrary to the information given by the Bureau of Prisons, she said she only spent four days in jail, and she was held in a facility next to the courthouse and not in federal prison.
Today, she is the director of the volunteer group "Katrina Relief" and has been volunteering in Hancock County since a few weeks after Hurricane Katrina. Last summer, she was invited to work alongside the Waveland Citizens Fund. She has written grants for citizens and solicited supplies and materials on behalf of the fund.
Once she began working at the Waveland Government Complex, she soon got certification to operate on a database called the CAN (Coordinated Access Network) program.
According to Johnson, it is a database in which one can contact other case managers and get assistance from volunteer organizations. One of the rules of the CAN program is that it must be kept totally separate from any governmental entity, she said. She said she would use the system to assist residents in applying for grants.
"My agreement with CAN and another major grant organization is it cannot be under the directorship of any governmental entity," she said.
She is currently in possession of hundreds of files which contain personal information of Waveland residents.
Over the past few weeks, the files have been the source of a raging controversy in the community.
On Jan. 2, Waveland Public Works Director Ron Calcagno and an off-duty police officer went to see Johnson at the Anchor Homes warehouse to attempt to retrieve the files.
Johnson refused to give up the files and the officials left empty-handed.Monday, Mayor Tommy Longo said he sent them to get the files. He said the officials were simply following orders and the reason why he sent the officials to get the files is because the city was aware of complaints made against Johnson, and that he believed the files belonged to the Waveland Citizens Fund and not Johnson. He said by trying to regain the files he was trying to protect the citizens who gave their personal information.
"My motivation was that we had created the files for months before Kathleen Johnson came aboard," he said. "These files contain lot of information. We have an active police investigation, but we were asked not to talk about it."
Johnson said an attorney cited the fact that the CAN program specifies a separation from any governmental entity as the reason to move away from the city offices.
The Echo has also learned that among those files are numerous Waveland city officials, including Longo.Johnson declined to show the Echo the files, stating they are strictly confidential.
"I wish I could show you, but I can't," she said.
Waveland Assistant Police Chief Mike Prendergast said Monday his department has received complaints pertaining to Johnson, and there is currently an active investigation into these claims. He would not specify what the claims are or who made them.
Likewise, officials in the Illinois Attorney General's office confirmed Monday they have received complaints about Johnson.
"We have received complaints from our consumer fraud bureau and we are looking into those complaints," Scott Mulford said, of the Illinois Attorney General's Office said.
Johnson said she believes certain people are "shifting the blame" and her main focus is still helping people get back into their homes.

1/30 - more re: the issues surrounding this topic:

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