US

Former Head Of Anti-Poverty Agency Charged With Accepting Nearly $25K In Bribes

The former head of a federally supported anti-poverty agency has been charged with accepting nearly $25,000 in bribes, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of Northern Ohio.

“Jacqueline K. Middleton, 69, of Shaker Heights, was charged in a criminal information with two counts of honest services fraud, one count of bribery in federally funded programs and one count of Hobbs Act Conspiracy,” reads the press release. Middleton is accused of accepting “more than $23,000 in cash, home renovations and other things of value in exchange for steering work to specific contractors.”

Middleton was the president and chief executive officer of the Council for Greater Economic Opportunities in Greater Cleveland, a private nonprofit that “brings together in one organization a broad array of federal, state and local programs and services that address the needs of low-income children and families.”

Middleton became head of the agency in 1993, who the CEOGC’s website still lauds as “ the first women[sic] in the history of CEOGC to hold this position.” The next year the agency assumed control of Head Start services for 722 children in the area, eventually building five new facilities and centers, including the first to be built entirely with federal funds. By 2005 the CEOGC was Ohio’s largest Head Start agency — and was investigated for overspending its $50 million annual budget by $1.2 million.

Over half its budget came from taxpayer funds. Middleton blamed the deficit on changes in the Ohio state budget at the time, even as she continued to draw a $243,000 salary.

Despite the Mayor of Cleveland herself calling for Middleton’s resignation, it wasn’t until April of this year that she left the CEOGC – voluntarily. She resigned a few months after the beginning of another federal investigation into the agency’s “questionable financial transactions,” now focusing on questionable checks written to Middleton and another CEOGC employee, Robert Moman.

The investigation eventually found that “from 2008 through around August 7, 2012, Middleton used her official position to enrich herself by soliciting and accepting gifts, payments and other things of value from contractors who did business with CEOGC. These gifts and payments were made in exchange for favorable action from Middleton for the payors and their companies…  The things of value included kickbacks from CEOGC payments, home renovation work and payments to vendors for related supplies on her behalf, according to the information.”

“As the President and CEO of the CEOGC, Ms. Middleton had the obligation and responsibility to use taxpayer funds to assist low income families of Northern Ohio,” said one government investigator. “Unfortunately she chose to use her position to enrich herself. The OIG and its law enforcement partners are committed to identifying, investigating and working with prosecutorial authorities to hold individuals accountable who choose breech the public’s trust and deprive needy citizens of vital taxpayer dollars.”

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