Vanco: WIB to rein in RCWE

The members of the Workforce Investment Board (WIB) met Monday in Erie to resolve issues raised by a state audit of the Regional Center for Workforce Excellence (RCWE).

The RCWE is the fiscal agent for the WIB, and the audit reported, among other issues, that program funds from federal and state sources were used for administrative and employee costs.

Northwestern Pennsylvania WIB members, known as Chief Local Elected Officials, or CLEOs are Stephen Vanco, Warren County; Bob Snyder, Forest County; James Sparber, Erie County; Bonnie Summers, Venango County; Jack Lynch, Crawford County and Butch Campbell, Clarion County.

Membership in one of the 22 WIBs in Pennsylvania is not optional for the counties, as it is federally mandated by the Workforce Investment Act of 1998.

Vanco said the meeting in Erie was to address the effects of the audit, based on a meeting of county commissioners held in Harrisburg last week. “They (the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry) told us to get control of this or they would do it for us. There are not a lot of options. They want transparency between the WIB board, the RCWE and the RCWE Holding Company,” that purchased a building in Erie and relocated a local CareerLink office into it with an expensive lease that exceeded government regulations.

“We, as elected officials, have the final financial obligations,” said Vanco, adding that the six commissioners would run the WIB for up to 90 days, keeping services running and functional. All staff will remain in their positions, but the Department of Labor and Industry will continuously oversee operations at RCWE for up to 90 days.

He explained that the commissioners appointed people to the WIB board, based on the percentage of populations within the six-county region. “Erie is the biggest, obviously. Warren has two positions,” he added, and the appointments generally come from business, industry and education fields.

Vanco said he is hoping to be able to “put the money back to where it was meant to be, and keep services functioning to the six counties.” Vanco said there couldn’t be any change in Warren County, and the CareerLink would remain unchanged.

There will be another meeting on Thursday between the WIB board, the Department of Labor and Industry and RCWE in Meadville, where RCWE is based.

Luiz Santos, with the Inspector General’s office of the U.S. Department of Labor and Industry in Washington, D.C., confirmed that there is a federal audit ongoing that should be completed by late summer. According to the Inspector General’s website, the audit will “determine if the Northwest Pennsylvania WIB and its fiscal agent, the Regional Center for Workforce Excellence, properly reported fiscal and performance results. This audit is in response to a congressional request.”