Tuesday, March 5, 2013 at 9:30 a.m.
Joseph Louis, executive director of Galata Inc., a Homestead social services agency, is challenging the findings of an audit that accuses his nonprofit organization of misspending part of a $500,000 Miami-Dade County grant. In January, Miami-Dade's inspector general claimed Galata took $77,307 to settle unpaid payroll taxes with the IRS when the money was supposed to be used to pay off the mortgage on the agency's Homestead recreational center. Galata also spent another $21,693 on expenses.
"The contract clearly stated that if you had any prior expenditures, you have the right to use the money to pay yourself back," Louis says. "The money from the grant belonged to Galata, and it was used for Galata."
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Louis pointed to an October 4 letter from Miami-Dade Budget Director Jennifer Moon to Inspector General Chris Mazzella in which she asserted Galata had provided the county with documentation validating the reimbursement. Mazzella, however, rejected Moon's response. He recommended the county recover the $99,000 Galata used to pay the tax liens and other expenses.
The inspector general also hammered Galata, which has been the recipient of dozens of county grants totaling more than a half-million dollars since 2010, for using the county grant as collateral to get into more debt.
Louis insists he has done nothing wrong. "We are the only nonprofit helping Haitian, Hispanic, and African-American elderly people from Kendall to Florida City," he says. "All the money we get from the government goes back to Galata."