Administration of the Los Angeles Indian Center's employment training activities has been shifted to the Orange County Indian office while federal officials investigate whether $229,000 in job training funds was misappropriated by the Los Angeles center, a U.S. Labor Department spokesman said Monday.
The investigation comes amid a special yearlong audit into how the Los Angeles center has spent its Labor Department job funds, said Joe Kirkbride, public affairs director for the department's Western regional office in San Francisco.
"We don't have a reason to believe anything wrong is involved until the audit is completed," he said.
A $1.6-million federal contract for running job training and placement programs for as many as 1,000 people in Los Angeles County was given to the Orange County center in Garden Grove on Aug. 28, Kirkbride said.
Kirkbride said that the Los Angeles center could not produce a surplus $229,000 from the fiscal year that ended last June 30, which was supposed to be used for job training in the current fiscal year.
"They (the Los Angeles Indian Center) said (the $229,000) had been used in other programs so that it wasn't readily available," Kirkbride said. He added that, under federal law, job training funds cannot be commingled with funds for other federal programs, such as those which underwrite social services.
Lyman Pierce, the Los Angeles center's director, could not be reached for comment Monday.
Jack Stafford, who has directed the Orange County Indian operation for the past two years, and who now is in charge of the Los Angeles office's job training program, said the public should not assume that someone stole the money.
"This does not reflect on the Indian people," Stafford, 44, said in a telephone interview. "This (case) only reflects on one (person) or a very small number of people who could have mismanaged (the funds) or made mistakes."
Orange County Indian Center director Stafford said the Los Angeles office at 1610 West 7th St. would be moved next week to 1125 West 6th St.
Stafford estimated that 60,000 to 80,000 Indians, mostly of the Navajo Nation, live in Los Angeles County, and about 25,000 to 30,000 Indians reside in Orange County.