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Former Firm Foundation Insider Says It's a Scam
Not only that, but David Lynch told The Rocket-Courier that the Firm Foundation, which is characterized as a faith-based program, providing a Christian ministry to prison inmates while teaching them job skills on public construction projects, really had nothing on paper outlining its ministry that it could show its own board.
Lynch, who has known Blow since they were kids and graduated with him from Athens High School the same year, 1973, says he came on board the Firm Foundation in January of this year at Blow's request and that their business relationship continued into May. One of his duties was to assist Blow in developing an organizational plan and helping him more effectively market the Firm Foundation through power-point presentations and other approaches. He said that one of the first things he noticed was that "there really was no organization."
"The Firm Foundation was him," Lynch says today of Blow. "It was I, me, my. It was not a Firm Foundation."
By the time Lynch became associated with Blow and the Firm Foundation, records show that the program here had received more than $60,000 in funding through a Department of Labor program and the PCCD had already provided substantial grant money, passing the money through Bradford County, which, as reported in The Rocket-Courier last week, was then supposed to cut the checks for the Firm Foundation as needed with documented billings. In a sense, they were already being substantially funded with government grant money, as well as soliciting public funds to support their program. Lynch says there never was much documentation for any billings.
"Not long after I got into it, he looked at me one night and said, ?Do you think we should sit down and write a budget?'" Lynch recalls of one of his meetings with Blow.
Lynch says he had few illusions from the beginning that Blow was capable of administering a program that was supposed to be coordinating the efforts of a paid staff with dozens of inmates, while overseeing several hundred thousand dollars over its first couple years of operation.
"Why did I agree to get involved?" Lynch asks. "I thought it was a great idea and we could do some good."
Aside from ministering to inmates, Lynch was especially interested in helping inmates recover from drug and alcohol addictions. He points out that some 80 percent of those incarcerated at the Bradford County Correctional Facility are there, directly or indirectly, due to drug or alcohol abuse. The program, as he first viewed it, seemed tailor-made for some kind of counseling component to help inmates in recovery. Lynch has more than a passing interest in recovery. He says he is in recovery himself, and he had something to bring to the table in this regard.
"The tragedy is that we were on the right track," Lynch says now. "We had a good board in place, but it didn't take long for high hopes to turn into disillusion."
That board consisted of some solid community and business leaders, and he mentioned Stan Janiak, Bill McBratney and Eleanor Hill as three of those who served on that board. Lynch says it didn't take long before the board was gone.
"It lasted about five weeks," he says. "I was one of the first to go, and I got so frustrated I walked out in the middle of a board meeting."
Lynch has also taken Blow to court to recover money he says the latter owed him for the services he provided earlier this year. Lynch reports a recent civil judgment in his favor by District Justice Michael Shaw.
"It was only a moral victory," notes Lynch, who says he got no money out of it and is now in the process of going through a higher court if he expects a monetary or property judgment.
There is no question that Dave Lynch has some obvious reasons for being critical of Wayne Blow, but he insists that he is not out for retribution or to hurt his former friend and associate. What hope he may have held for the Firm Foundation under Blow's leadership dissipated in a few months. He says that Blow boasted about a $900 a week salary, a substantial cell phone bill and the use of a vehicle.
"This is not personal between me and Wayne," Lynch said. "As a taxpayer, I personally do not want to see Wayne get another penny."
Lynch says he is most surprised at the lack of oversight by the county, which he feels continued to support Blow and his program despite his failure to provide basic documentation of his spending.
One person on that board who stuck with Blow was Dick Friend. A few weeks ago, Blow reported to the Bradford County Commissioners that Friend had taken over as executive director. Blow himself said he planned to preside over the board of directors and since there were no other directors, one of their first priorities was to form another board.
Two weeks ago, the commissioners agreed to proceed with instigating an audit of the Firm Foundation and, in the midst of all this, the PCCD came to Towanda this week (see accompanying article) to essentially defend its case and defend its position of continuing to fund the program.
As for Lynch, he says it could be a worthwhile program, but he doesn't see it working as long as Blow exerts any control.
"He had the opportunity to do it right," Lynch says.