MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Many towns have community action groups, which are non-profits that get funding to help people find work and keep warm in the winter.

But Community Action Minneapolis is being questioned after an audit found hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant money was used for things like tropical vacations.

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On their website, Community Action Minneapolis’ CEO Bill Davis says, “We’re dedicated to improving people’s lives.”

But according to an audit, their group has been at times focused on accentuating their own lives.

Lucinda Jesson, the commissioner of Minnesota’s Department of Human Services, says the audit came about because her agency noticed some red flags.

Jesson says the group used grant money on things with no business purpose, like airfare to the Bahamas for a friend of the CEO, golf, a celebrity cruise and a Coscto membership.

She calls the spending unacceptable.

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“We need every single dollar that we can to help poor families become self-sufficient, and that’s not happening here,” Jesson said.

Nor, she says, are people getting jobs. The audit says the group has seen an 85- to 96-percent drop in participants who get jobs.

WCCO called and dropped in on the group to hear their side, but we were told the CEO was in a meeting.

DHS is now asking for more than $600,000 back.

DHS says the biggest red flag they see is that the group proposed spending 60 percent of funds on administration costs.

They say most community action groups around the state spend 15 percent on administration.

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Read the DHS’s audit report here.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield