Hartford's CRT pays $362K civil settlement

BY Gregory Seay

HBJ File Photo
HBJ File Photo
Community Renewal Team (CRT) Lena Rodriguez.
Hartford support nonprofit Community Renewal Team (CRT) and its CEO have paid $362,000 to settle six-year-old state and federal civil claims that they mismanaged grant money, some of it pilfered by a former staffer, authorities say.

Based in the city's North End, CRT and President/CEO Lena Rodriguez agreed to the settlement with the state attorney general's office and the Connecticut U.S. Attorney's Office to resolve allegations they breached state and federal False Claims Acts, Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham said Thursday.

Rodriguez confirmed the settlement in an emailed statement Thursday.

"We have agreed to settle this case after six long years in the interest of putting the matter behind us and moving forward with the crucial work that we do each day," Rodriguez wrote. "Now we can focus all of our efforts on the people we serve."

According to investigators, the bulk of CRT's funding comes via various federal agencies, among them U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Investigators from all three agencies participated in the CRT probe, Durham said.

Federal funds are awarded to CRT directly and indirectly, authorities said, through various state agencies and, in some cases, federal funding is combined with state funding and allocated to CRT.

State and federal investigators claim that from June 2009 through Nov. 2010, Rodriguez, who has headed CRT since Jan. 2006, ordered certain CRT employees to work on a state-funded grant program, called "Home Solutions," while charging their time to federal grants funded by HHS, HUD and DOE, as well as other state grants passed through the state Department of Social Services.

Also, between Oct. 2009 and Sept. 2010, CRT improperly charged the time of a budget analyst to a Head Start grant when the employee was working on other unrelated programs, authorities said.

Finally, between June 2010 and April 2013, an unidentified CRT program manager for the HHS-funded Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Program misappropriated $18,500 for her personal use.
CRT says it serves more than 86,000 individuals and 35,000 families in more than 60 communities in Hartford and Middlesex counties.