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Justice

Maryland service agencies agree to pay $639,916 settlement after federal probe into AmeriCorps grant

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The state of Maryland reached a settlement agreement with the federal government to resolve a False Claims Act investigation into two agencies in former Gov. Larry Hogan’s office, agreeing to pay $639,916 related to an AmeriCorps grant to the state.

The state also entered into a three-year compliance agreement over AmeriCorps funding for the Governor’s Office on Service and Volunteerism and the Governor’s Office on Community Initiatives, which oversees the volunteerism agency, according to an announcement Tuesday by Maryland U.S. Attorney Erek Barron.

“This settlement demonstrates our firm commitment to protect taxpayer money and to guard the integrity of federal grant funds,” Barron said in a statement. “State agencies such as GOSV and GOCI are required to properly account for their use of federal grant funds, and when they fail to do so, they will be held accountable.”

The civil settlement was the result of an investigation by the inspector general for AmeriCorps into the administration of two grants to Hogan’s Office on Service and Volunteerism, the first of which, from 2016 to 2019, was where the problems were identified.

“AmeriCorps depends on state service commissions to be partners in stewardship of national service funds,” said Deborah J. Jeffrey, AmeriCorps’ inspector general. “The Maryland Governor’s Office on Service and Volunteerism failed in that trust by overstating its expenses and other irregularities that deprived at-risk communities of benefits intended for them.”

The settlement comes at a time when Gov. Wes Moore (D), who succeeded Hogan (R) just last Wednesday, has made service and volunteerism a centerpiece of efforts in his new administration.

The AmeriCorps money for the Maryland programs came in the form of matching grants in which the federal and state governments each put up just over $1 million. The grants were designed to “promote and recognize volunteer activities throughout the state with events” such as Governor’s Service Awards, Governor’s Volunteer Appreciation Day at the Maryland State Fair, and a program called Honor Rows to recognize youth groups with a chance to attend a Baltimore Ravens game free of charge, the settlement states.

The federal government maintained that Hogan’s Governor’s Office on Service and Volunteerism and the Governor’s Office on Community Initiatives “engaged in widespread violations of the AmeriCorps grant requirements.” Those violations included:

  • Distributing Orioles and Maryland State Fair tickets that were intended to be given to volunteers to individuals who were not eligible under the grant, including Governor’s Office on Service and Volunteerism employees themselves;
  • Charging salaries of GOSV and GOCI employees, including the executive director of GOSV, to the AmeriCorps grant without timesheets or time records to reflect the fact those individuals worked on the AmeriCorps grant; and
  • Overcharging AmeriCorps on certain federal financial reports that were submitted to AmeriCorps to demonstrate how GOSV spent the grant money.

Employee names were not included in the agreements.

“This settlement agreement is neither an admission of liability by GOSV and GOCI, nor a concession by the United States that its claims are not well founded,” the settlement concludes.

The agreement, which was reviewed and approved by the attorney general’s office, was signed “to avoid the delay, uncertainty, inconvenience and expense of protracted litigation.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas F. Corcoran negotiated for the federal government, and the settlement was signed by Steven J. McAdams, executive director of Hogan’s Office of Community Initiatives. It was signed Dec. 15, 2022.