An operator of Job Corps centers failed to properly discipline problem students at three of its sites for incidents that included drug use, domestic violence and a dorm room orgy that might have been a sexual assault, according to a new federal audit that says the company's improper handling of the violators created an unsafe environment for staff and other students.
"Allowing problem students to remain on center potentially places other students and staff at risk," says the U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) Office of Inspector General performance audit of three Job Corps cites operated by Reno, Nevada-based Adams and Associates, Inc.
The audit also says Adams claimed students had completed various technical training tasks on days when records show the students were AWOL, raising questions about whether the Adams-operated centers are reaping undeserved performance while failing to fulfill the central Job Corps mission of preparing youths for employment.
"Incomplete tasks could impact a student's ability to obtain and maintain employment in the vocation in which the student was trained," the audit says, "and inaccurate performance reporting impacts management decision making, incentive payments, and option years awarded to the contracted center operators.
The audit says Adams may owe the DOL "liquidated damages" ranging from roughly $68,000 to nearly $118,000 for claiming that youths had completed career technical training without documented proof.
"We question the factual accuracy of a number of the statements within the report," company president Roy A. Adams states in a letter that is included in the report. "We operate with the highest of integrity and quality, resulting in the highest student success rates of any Job Corps contractor."
The DOL audited the Atterbury Job Corps Center in Edinburgh, Ind.; the Gadsden Job Corps Center in Gadsden, Ala.; and the Shriver Job Corps Center in Devens, Mass.
The audit says Adams "did not consistently ensure compliance with Job Corps requirements for safety when it came to student misconduct." For instance, it says a female student at Atterbury claimed she was sexually assaulted by four males in her dorm room, but the center never reported the incident to police or Job Corps because "the results of the center's internal investigation concluded the sexual activity was consensual."
"The female student left the center and quit the program immediately after the incident," the audit states. "Even if Atterbury's conclusion about the alleged assault was correct, Atterbury was still required to report it as a significant incident since it was, at a minimum, inappropriate sexual activity."
In other incidents, the audit states, a male youth who physically assaulted his ex-girlfriend, also a student at the center, was not subjected to the proper review or discipline because the center claimed there was not enough evidence to charge the youth with fighting, even though his record showed he "grabbed his ex-girlfriend by the neck and then shoved her."
"Both students admitted to having a very physical relationship and were always smacking and hitting one another," the audit states.
The audit also uncovered problems with "incomplete Training Achievement Records (TARs)" and student leave records at all three sites.
For instance, at Atterbury, one TAR showed five tasks completed on days the student was reported as AWOL, but Adams dismissed the problem as one of "administrative oversights."
Those oversights could prove costly. Job Corps guidelines say that damages of $750 should be assessed for each "invalid vocational completion." Consequently, Adams may owe the federal labor department $16,500 for 22 students identified as having incomplete TARs at that site, the audit states. It could be much higher if the feds decide to project the statistical sample results to the rest of the student population at Atterbury.
Adams claimed in his written response that the incomplete training records was a "documentation problem" and noted that the documentation requirement has since become less onerous. The audit disagreed.
At the Shriver Job Corps Center, a student left the center for "unauthorized reasons and had the smell of marijuana on his hands when he returned." The student admitted to smoking marijuana, but the incident was wrongly classified as a lower level infraction and no drug test was given to confirm the use of drugs and establish a benchmark in case the student tests positive a second time within the following 45-day "suspicion intervention period."
Shriver Job Corps center officials also failed to notify Job Corps of four students who got kicked out of the center for sale, possession or distribution of drugs. "Adams corporate management told us these incidents were not reported because the police were not involved," the audit states. "However, the (Policy and Requirements Handbooks) requires reporting such incidents to Job Corps whether or not the police are involved."
The audit blames many of the problems with lack of proper intervention on the belief that center directors had more discretion than Job Corps guidelines allow, and calls for Adams and Job Corps to develop better procedures and oversight to ensure compliance. Adams wrote, "These opinions are subjective and not factual."