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16226: (Hermantin) Palm Beach Post-Haitian council chief says conscience guided her (fwd)
From: leonie hermantin <email@example.com>
Saturday, July 26
Haitian council chief says conscience guided her
By Gariot Louima, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 26, 2003
For the first time since her ethics came into question, Daniella Henry sat
back, nodded her head and answered yes.
The beleaguered executive director of the Haitian American Community Council
denies that she ever charged clients for services or had ever been in a
nepotistic relationship with former employee Gethro Louis-Jean, with whom
she owned a house.
But, yes, she conceded Friday, she'd placed a client in a house partly owned
by her mother.
West Palm Beach officials have been investigating allegations that Henry
helped family and friends become landlords in a program that provides rent
money for AIDS patients. The findings of the city's review are expected to
be released Monday.
The city, through the federal Housing Opportunities for People With AIDS
program, gives the Haitian council money to pay rent for AIDS patients.
Henry said she felt compelled to place a female client enrolled in the
program in a house co-owned by her mother, Germaine Filsaime. The woman has
three teenage daughters, and Henry said she decided the family would be
safer there than in a house owned by the the Haitian council and reserved
for people in the AIDS housing program.
"The only other place to put that woman and her children was the HOPWA
House," Henry said. "Only men live in that house, and they are still very
(sexually) active. If I put that woman in there with her daughters and
something happened to them, it would be on my conscience."
This year, Andre Arnaud, who co-owned the house with Filsaime, received
$3,750 through the housing program. In February, the two sold the house to
Charles Watson, who has received $2,250 in rent through the housing program,
Over the years, the Haitian American Community Council has emerged as one of
the largest social service agencies for Haitian immigrants in Palm Beach
County. Henry, as its founder and director, is arguably the most powerful
Haitian activist in the community. She and the agency have been credited
with helping thousands assimilate in America.
In recent months, however, Henry and other managers at the Delray Beach
agency have spent many hours arranging documents for investigators.
In June, the county's Department of Community Services called the Haitian
council's board of directors ineffective and untrained, and said some
programs offered by the council weren't properly managed and required
serious technical assistance to meet their goals.
The Children's Services Council offered a similar critique. Officials
worried that programs offered by the decade-old agency would suffer after
the dismissal of three employees, including the deputy director, Karlie
Richardson. A Children's Services Council report said Richardson was fired
following an internal dispute that stemmed from a "nepotistic relationship"
Henry had with Louis-Jean.
The Children's Services Council and the county instructed Henry to fix the
problems within the organization. Sharon Nangle, a county monitor, said the
county might hire interpreters to interview present and former clients of
the Haitian American Community Council to determine whether they were
improperly charged for services.
Despite its problems, the council was notified this month that it could
receive $140,000 from the county next year. While that number represents a
$13,495 reduction from this year's allocation, Henry said she believes it is
proof of the council's importance.
"Who else will do the work we're doing?" she asked Friday, sitting on a red
sofa in her corner office. On a wooden coffee table is a book that Henry
said a friend had given her, The Disease to Please. Her desire to help
people, she said while pointing to the book, is what's gotten her in
trouble, she said.
"I work with what's in my heart before I go and do all the paperwork or all
the filing," she said. "I can't just see people in need of help and not do
Nangle, the monitor, said Henry and her staff have been responsive to county
concerns so far. They seem to be moving forward in an effort to meet their
contract goals, Nangle said, and members of the board of directors are
getting the needed training.
Her only concern is that the council still has not hired a manager to
oversee the immigration services program. Richardson, the fired deputy
director, had supervised that program.
"I think maybe it will all come out better," board President Carolyn
Meanwhile, Richardson and former Haitian American Community Council employee
Marie Yves Snizek are forming their own nonprofit agency to serve Haitian
immigrants, Snizek confirmed Friday. She declined to discuss the services
the group would offer because nothing has been finalized. Richardson could
not be reached for comment.
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