Former Community ReStart employee charged with stealing rent money

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PITTSFIELD — A former employee of a Community ReStart transitional housing program is facing charges he collected rent from three tenants over several months and failed to submit the money for deposit in the organization's bank account.

Joseph Kirvin, 59, is believed to have stolen about $6,135, according to a police report. Questions also have been raised about $2,000 in donated plants to another Community ReStart program that were not received, but which the donating company said were delivered to Kirvin.

Community ReStart, a nonprofit organization, owns five houses in Pittsfield and operates a transitional housing program for low-income people. Rents are set at below market rates.

Pittsfield Police Officer Jeffrey Arena reported that he first spoke with Paul Deslauriers, then executive director of the group, on Sept. 1, and he was told that while other tenants send their rent money to the organization's office, three had rent money collected for them by Kirvin.

Deslauriers told the officer that Kirvin, when confronted about the unaccounted for rent money, first said the tenants had not paid the amounts. However, the three tenants provided proof they had paid, according to the officer's report, and it was determined by Community ReStart that $5,100 was unaccounted for involving rent over five months.

Kirvin was employed for about 18 months, Deslauriers told police.

In a subsequent interview, Deslauriers later amended that total to $6,135, Arena reported.

He also told the officer that Kirvin later admitted taking $3,700 and keeping the money, and that it was being kept at his house. Subsequent attempts to retrieve the money were unsuccessful, Deslauriers said.

Deslauriers said Kirvin also had signed a statement in front of him and two ReStart board members in early September that said he would repay $3,500, but no payments were received.

Kirvin was arraigned in Central Berkshire District Court in October on a charge of larceny over $250 from a single scheme. He was released and is due back in court next on Dec. 24.

ReStart board member James Conway, who now is overseeing the housing component of the ReStart community service programs, said all tenants are now required to directly pay rents to the office.

The ReStart organization, formerly known as Berkshire Co-Act, is amidst a managerial dispute between Deslauriers and his supporters and current board members over the future of its programs.

On Dec. 15, more than 40 people who have worked or volunteered with the nonprofit since its founding in 2008 met with Deslauriers and others and ultimately voted 38-0 to express no confidence in the current board president, the Rev. Ralph Howe.

Deslauriers, who was removed from the post of executive director in October by the board, has called for Howe to resign. Howe said after the meeting that the no confidence vote was not legally binding as the nonprofit is managed by a self-perpetuating board of directors — not as originally was the case by a membership of volunteers who worked with the programs.

Howe also has said he discovered mismanagement of programs after he joined the board about a year ago. He said he is determined to stay on as president until the nonprofit's tax status and other issues involving Community ReStart are resolved.

Among major issues, Howe said, were the revocation by the Internal Revenue Service of the nonprofit's 501(c)3 status, in part because several required annual forms had not been filed.

Contact Jim Therrien at 413-496-6247.


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