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Feds investigate state claims for grant money

Probe centers on funds for Portland foster care agency

SALEM — The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is investigating whether Oregon's Department of Human Services submitted false or improper claims for payment under a federal grant.

The federal agency’s Office of Inspector General served a subpoena on the state agency Nov. 13 for records related to the Portland foster care agency Give Us This Day. The agency faces allegations of child neglect and misuse of funds, including $2 million the Oregon Department of Justice said the agency wasted on travel, designer luggage and other expenses.

Oregon Department of Human Services receives federal funding including a specific grant mentioned in the subpoena, which prompted the inspector general’s inquiry into how those funds might have been spent on Give Us This Day.

Willamette Week first reported the federal investigation Wednesday, Dec. 2, and the newspaper also wrote stories documenting that top Department of Human Services administrators ignored reports of problems at the Portland foster care agency Give Us This Day.

The subpoena calls for the state to provide documents going back to January 2007, including records of all cash advances and other payments to Give Us This Day and contracts and data for all children placed with the agency. The state faces a Dec. 14 deadline to provide documents listed in the subpoena, according to a letter from Steven Ryan, acting special agent in charge.

A spokesman for DHS declined to comment, citing the open investigation. A spokeswoman for Gov. Kate Brown, who has ordered an independent review of the agency, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether the federal investigation would delay or otherwise impact that review.

Hillary Borrud is a reporter with the Pamplin Media Group/EO Media Group Capital Bureau in Salem.