Ancianos to Remain Open Despite Rumors

By: Bill Whaley
6 June, 2014

Justicia1Despite the rumors, according to County Commissioner Larry Sanchez, who attended a meeting with the board of Ancianos today, Friday, June 6, 2014, the non-profit fiscal agent for state and federal pass-through funds, the senior centers throughout Taos County in Amalia, Questa, Chamisal, and Taos will remain open five days a week.

“The program is getting 15,000 from the Town and $12,000 from the County,” said Sanchez. “We don’t want to lose it [senior program]. Sanchez also said the countywide senior program should get another $19,000 from Triple A, a state pass-through agent for federal funds. “We want to keep it open Monday through Friday, five days a week” through the end of the month, said Sanchez.

Commissioner Sanchez confirmed that the County would take over the program on July 1 when the new fiscal year begins. Sanchez was especially concerned that “meals on wheels” and hot lunches should continue.

The County is advertising for a new position with the finance department, which position will have direct financial oversight responsibilities. Seniors say they have been told County information officer Mike Trujillo will assume the director’s position once the County takes over on July 1.

The Ancianos program has been plagued with mismanagement and a lack of fiscal oversight during the last decade. A former board member says the state agency responsible for overseeing the local board has neither trained the board and administrators nor has it allotted funds for in-house accounting personnel.

Musical chairs continues as the current director has been released, according to Sanchez. He didn’t know who would be in charge on Monday. According to insiders the administrative secretary should be back from vacation and is capable of overseeing the program on an interim basis until the end of the month.

The County has been reluctant to get involved prior to July 1, due to legal and financial issues. Apparently the County learned its lesson when it moved prematurely during the TCHA scandal and got stuck for thousands of dollars. Any immediate funds allocated to the program will be at arms length.

Town Councilor Fritz Hahn has already concluded a separate meeting with seniors at the Taos Retirement Center and hopes to schedule another joint meeting with seniors who attend the Taos Senior Center. Hahn says he hopes seniors will establish a task force that includes town councilors and county commissioners in order to discuss issues relevant to the aging populace.

Problems with the Ancianos program can be traced back to ongoing nepotism, incompetence, a lack of oversight by the state and the local board as well as to, allegedly, outright pilfering.

Meanwhile, the program itself is considered highly successful, providing meals, exercise, social opportunities and inexpensive in-house lunches. While most seniors have a wait and see attitude about the County administration at the center, they themselves are expected to keep a close eye on staffers, lest they abuse the unrestricted accounts. In past years the seniors have raised money for senior Olympics but were told to stop due to the scandalous behavior of employees at Ancianos, who used dough for travel, car payments, loans to each other, etc.

A recent audit discovered something like 42 findings and caused a problem for the state’s federal auditors of the Aging programs.

The politicians always show up at election time because seniors vote. Now the County and Town are showing up and resuming responsibilities for the organization, an organization they helped set up. Years ago the Town contributed the building and the County furnished the land. Now both Town and County are expected to provide political and moral leadership.

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