Reporting Jack Fink
DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – A Dallas County grand jury indicted the manager of a City of Dallas program Thursday morning for allegedly misusing between $1,500 and $20,000 in public funds.
Suanne Durham, who oversees the program Project Reconnect, is charged with abuse of official capacity. The charge is a state jail felony and caries a penalty of up to two years in prison.
The Project Reconnect program helps offenders re-enter society, and receives more than $1 million in federal funding, and some $350,000 from the city.
On Tuesday evening, the city officials said eight other employees in the program have been put on paid administrative leave. CBS 11 News found Durham at her Dallas home Wednesday. Standing in her front door, Durham declined comment.
According to Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, the city first discovered problems back in July, and immediately contacted the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office. A source tells CBS 11 allegations may include one or more employees trading sex for housing vouchers. “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,” Mayor Rawlings said.
Meantime, a sign on the door of Project Reconnect said it is temporarily discontinued. The lights are out. No employees are on the job Inside, boxes are piled up.
While the program is temporarily discontinued, advocates at Dallas City Hall say people must separate the investigation from the service provided here. “The ex-offender program is a good program here in our city,” Dallas Councilwoman Carolyn Davis insisted. “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 message to city employees was basically if they do something wrong, the city will catch them.
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