Baltimore's Health Education Resource Organization, an AIDS service organization that has spent a year embroiled in charges that its executive director misused agency funds, has announced several new programs and initiatives aimed at strengthening the agency, the The [Baltimore] Sun reports. The organization currently offers about 4,000 clients medical care, legal assistance, and counseling but will expand its services to focus on general health care issues and preventative medicine to help its clients live longer and healthier lives.
"We want to surround our clients with care," embattled executive director Leonard R. Ortega told the Sun. The agency also announced plans to improve community awareness of HERO and its programs and to launch new fund-raising efforts to bring much-needed cash into the organization.
The financial scandal at HERO began early last year when its deputy director accused Ortega of misusing company funds by hiring a personal trainer and giving himself several thousand dollars in bonuses. The deputy director was fired three days after making the allegations, which triggered the resignations of eight HERO board members. Other staff members also subsequently quit the agency, including Ortega's assistant, citing concerns over Ortega's use of HERO funds. The allegations spurred investigations by local health authorities and by the FBI over possible misuse of federal Ryan White AIDS funds. The investigations revealed no wrongdoing by Ortega or misuse of federal grants. An internal HERO investigation also showed Ortega had not acted improperly.