MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The owner of a foster care company accused of misusing $6.1 million in taxpayer dollars built his operation from the ground up, driving all over Wisconsin to vet potential foster families, a newspaper reported.
The state Department of Children and Families sent Community Care Resources a letter in January announcing the agency had decided to revoke the company's license. The state claimed the company's owner, Dan Simon, and his wife, Mary Simon, charged the state for unallowable personal expenses, including trips and cars, the Wisconsin State Journal newspaper reported in Sunday's editions. http://bit.ly/10cHh2s .
State Department of Justice officials have said they are investigating the Middleton-based company. Dan Simon has denied the allegations and appealed the revocation, the newspaper reported. The company can continue to operate until the matter is resolved.
The newspaper reported Simon started building CCR out of his Madison basement in 1989. He traveled around the state in search of potential foster families, often wearing blue jeans and with his hunting dog beside him.
"His folks were common folks, country folks, and that's pretty much the way he presented himself," Gordon Cunningham, of LaFarge, a 23-year CCR foster parent, told the State Journal. "His car — I think it was an Oldsmobile— had maybe 125,000 miles on it, but he had no desire to give it up because it still worked."
Simon licensed foster parents, then contracted with counties to place children with them. The counties paid CCR a per-child fee. Part of the money went to the foster parents. The rest went to CCR.
"It was incredibly tough work, and they did it really well," Tim Strait, who worked for CCR as a staff psychotherapist in the mid-2000s, told the newspaper. "They took absolutely broken kids and helped them put their lives back together."
The company grew, earning about $6 million in annual revenue, according to the State Journal. Simon earned an average annual salary of about $340,000, plus additional income as the company's only shareholder, the newspaper reported.
In 2007, CCR opened a new headquarters in Middleton. The building is currently assessed at $1.2 million. Simon's ways began to change, foster parents said.
"Maybe it was the stress and strain, but he got kind of aloof," Cunningham told the newspaper.
The state allows foster care agencies to make a profit, but state and federal guidelines require any costs charged to the state be reasonable and properly documented.
According to the state's allegations listed in a February report in the State Journal (http://bit.ly/12iALM1 ), Dan and Mary Simon earned at least $531,000 in inflated salaries, and the company billed the state for more than $64,000 in personal travel, charged $120,000 in expenses related to the couple's three homes, six vehicles and three boats and was reimbursed hundreds of thousands of dollars for miscellaneous and undocumented expenses between 2009 and 2011.
Dan and Mary Simon declined to comment to the State Journal for Sunday's story. A telephone message The Associated Press left at the company's headquarters Monday wasn't immediately returned.