Members of the Dothan Personnel Board upheld the recent termination of a former city of Dothan employee who oversaw an after-school food program now allegedly under FBI investigation.
According to WTVY, Stephanie Wingfield allegedly used a retired city of Dothan employee’s signature to apply for federal funding reimbursements for the after-school feeding program. She also allegedly “ordered subordinates to falsify paperwork” so Dothan could receive federal funding for the program during the COVID pandemic.
“Ms. Wingfield didn’t use updated log-in credentials for the on-line submittals after she became responsible for the program after Larry (Patrick) retired,” Kevin Cowper, Dothan City manager, said in an email to WTVY News 4.
A restaurant owner has also claimed Wingfield illegally disclosed her bid so another restaurant could undercut the price.
The program contract eventually went to a restaurant called Breakfast at Tammie’s.
Over two years, the city of Dothan paid Breakfast at Tammie’s $2.7 million for meals and snacks, according to documents obtained by WTVY.
Besides Wingfield’s termination, another employee was suspended, and three other city workers were disciplined for their roles with the after-school food program, according to WTVY. The FBI is reportedly investigating whether any crimes were committed. However, no charges or arrests have been made by local, state, or federal law enforcement yet.
Richard Rice, Wingfield’s attorney, told WTVY after today’s board hearing upholding the termination that “we are disappointed with the decision of the personnel board to uphold the termination of Ms. Wingfield’s employment with the City of Dothan.”
“We will continue to work to establish the truth related to the City’s actions and to vindicate Ms. Wingfield,” Rice told WTVY.
The Dothan City Commission revised the after-school nutrition program on August 16 by contracting with Dothan City Schools to regularly provide 200 dinners and snacks to students. Dothan was providing approximately 1,800 to 2,000 dinners and snacks regularly at the height of COVID, according to Kevin Cowper, Dothan City Manager.
Cowper said at the August 16 meeting of the Dothan City Commission that contracting with schools, not restaurants, to prepare the meals was how the program operated pre-pandemic.
“If we don’t host it, there won’t be an eligible provider,” Cowper said. “The situation with the kids that are in the after-school program…some, not all, may not get dinner that evening if they don’t participate in this program. We think it’s a critical part of their learning and their after-school care…doing homework and all those kinds of things to have some food available to them.”
Cowper said at the August 16 meeting that “the only reason we bid out during the COVID program was because the school system said they couldn’t meet the demands of the program.”
“They didn’t have the staff,” Cowper added. “The supply chain issues made it difficult for them to get food. They just couldn’t meet the needs of the program.”
To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email caleb.taylor@1819News.com.
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