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I-Team: City of Dallas Program Under Investigation

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DALLAS (CBS I-TEAM) - The lights are out. The office is shut down. Inside, boxes are piled up.

And posted on the front window, a sign says Project Reconnect is temporarily discontinued.

This after a city-initiated investigation discovered the program that helps offenders re-enter society may have had thousands of tax dollars misspent by some employees.

The city says the program manager faces a criminal charge, and eight employees have been put on paid administrative leave.

A source tells CBS-11 that allegations may include an employee or employees trading sex for housing vouchers.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings says, “It’s very disturbing, but we’ve got zero tolerance and we’re going to move heaven and earth to get to the bottom of the full issue.”

CBS-11 has learned the woman who oversees Project Reconnect, Suanne Durham, is charged with abuse of official capacity, and allegedly misusing between $1,500 and $20,000 of public money.

The charge is a state jail felony — carrying a penalty of up to two years in prison.

Her case was brought before a Dallas County grand jury Tuesday, and an announcement could come as early as Thursday.

We found Durham at her Dallas home today.

Standing in her front door, Durham declined comment.

Mayor Rawlings says the city first discovered problems back in July, and immediately contacted the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office.

Project Reconnect receives more than one million dollars in federal funds, and more than $350,000 from the city.

While the program is temporarily discontinued, advocates at Dallas City Hall say people must separate the investigation from the service provided here.

Dallas Councilwoman Carolyn Davis says, “The ex-offender program is a good program here in our city. It takes people out of the prison setting and into the civilian life. It helps them get prepared and ready for a whole new world that’s changed.”

Councilwoman Davis says the city conducts ethics training for employees, and will continue doing so.

Mayor Rawlings says his message to employees is, that if they do something wrong, the city will catch them.

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