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Kanawha employee serves on board that could bid on senior program

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- An employee of the Kanawha County Commission sits on the board of a nonprofit agency interested in bidding on the county's senior nutrition program.

Kanawha County Engineer John Luoni was appointed by the County Commission to serve on the board of directors for EnAct Inc., a Charleston-based nonprofit group. Luoni serves as the group's secretary.

"I just take care of the minutes; that's all I do," Luoni said Tuesday, although he said he is authorized to cosign checks if other EnAct board members aren't available.

Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper has been pushing to have the nutrition program put out for bid. The Putnam Aging Program has had the contract for feeding Kanawha County senior citizens since 1993.

Carper believes a Kanawha County agency can do a better job with the nutrition program than an agency from Putnam County. Officials for EnAct Inc. have said they would be interested in bidding on the nutrition program.

Neither Carper nor Luoni considers his presence on the board a conflict of interest. "It's a voluntary position," Luoni said. "I wouldn't profit from [EnAct getting the food contract] personally, and neither would the county."

Carper said the County Commission has representatives on many boards around the county. "[Luoni] is on the board because I couldn't get anyone else to serve on the board," he said. "At least he'll go to the meetings."

Carper said the idea of a conflict of interest was ridiculous.

"I could[n't] care less who bids on [the nutrition program]," he said. "I'd like to see the Marriott bid on it. I'd like to see a lot of people bid on it.

"The bottom line is to get the best quality food for the senior citizens of Kanawha County."

Carper recently sent a letter to the West Virginia Bureau of Senior Services requesting the 20-year-old contract for Kanawha County's nutrition program be put out for competitive bids. He said county officials have no say in whether the contract is re-bid or who is allowed to bid on it.

"Is it a good idea to never bid on anything, ever?" Carper asked. "That's the real question here. Tell those who are looking for a conspiracy to look somewhere else."

EnAct replaced the Capital Resource Agency, which was established in 2007.

In 2010, the Capital Resource Agency got into trouble with state officials for mishandling a home weatherization program. State officials said CRA workers did shoddy work, stole equipment and falsified records.

The Capital Resource Agency was set up to replace the financially strapped Multi-CAP, which declared bankruptcy in 2001. A former Multi-CAP director went to jail after pleading guilty to spending federal money on strippers and a trip to the Kentucky Derby.

Reach Rusty Marks at rustymarks@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.


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