Sick Figures

Funding cuts, allegations of fraud, and a marriage gone sour: La Liga Contra SIDA falls on hard times

HRS spokesman Tony Welch says neither Tribie's claims nor the warnings outlined in the agency's 1994 letter are the subject of any investigation. But HRS still has not reimbursed the League Against AIDS for some $8000 in expenditures, and won't do so until the group submits its overdue audit. "Depending on what the audit turns up, there could be an investigation done by HRS," Welch says. "We don't know until we have all the facts in front of us."

Mireille Tribie also wrote to the Centers for Disease Control last year to outline other employees' complaints regarding a federal contract that provided about $293,000 annually for education and outreach to minority and at-risk women. The complaints involved late payroll checks, denial of health insurance benefits to some staffers, and incorrect use of money earmarked for salaries and other job-related needs. At that time Tribie also repeated her assertions that the board of directors wasn't functioning.

Late last year, after the board hadn't met in six months, Laureano-Vega informed several members that because they had failed to complete the necessary paperwork, they were no longer considered board members. In early 1995, three additional members resigned, citing philosophical differences with Laureano-Vega over "the role of a nonprofit agency," as one member put it.

The CDC is looking into the matter.
"We have a project officer who is working with the league who will make a determination as to whether there are areas of misunderstandings or miscommunication," says CDC spokeswoman Mary Willingham. "They have to be a functioning nonprofit organization for us to work with them. If they're having bookkeeping problems, that is CDC's concern. If their board of directors is not functioning, it means the organization is flailing, and we'd have concerns."

Elaine Abreu only recently joined the board of directors of the League Against AIDS. But she says she has been involved with the group since its inception, and she argues that it has overcome any problems concerning its board of directors. "Up to this point, La Liga has had a very wimpy board A this was our main problem," Abreu concedes. "But I think now the board is going to be very strong, and you will see some changes."

Change is sorely needed, according to two recent studies published by Behavioral Science Research, a Coral Gables company hired by the county to evaluate the 41 local providers who receive federal AIDS funding through Metro-Dade. On the basis of telephone interviews with 389 clients, BSR found that La Liga ranked last in overall satisfaction, with a 65 percent positive rating. (The top provider, by comparison, rated 96 percent.) In evaluating the providers using twenty guidelines established for case management, the league's 72 percent rate of compliance ranked far below the average of 90 percent.

The study results elicit more finger-pointing between league co-founders Tribie and Laureano-Vega. Tribie was director of the organization's client services division until her dismissal; her soon-to-be ex-husband asserts she must shoulder responsibility for the dismal evaluations. Calling the executive director "an absolute dictator," Tribie protests that she worked only part-time at the league and that Laureano-Vega personally controlled every aspect of operations.

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