Yolanda vs. NC DHHS: Butting heads over fiscal review of Robinson family biz

A fiscal review of Greensboro-based Balanced Nutrition, the Robinson family business, had been scheduled for the duration of this week.  The firm, a contractor for state government which manages millions in tax revenue, has been at the center of controversy and raising all kinds of questions for the last year. 

Our reporting over the last year has raised issues that include: possible false info supplied to the IRS, accounting practices that do not appear to comply with the industry’s Generally Accepted Accounting Practices, failure to comply with state law and regulations regarding the hiring and paying of family members, failure to comply with DHHS regulations aimed at contractors, and possible improper application for and receipt of federal paycheck protection loans. 

Yolanda Hill, Balanced Nutrition’s CFO, is married to Lt. Governor (and GOP gubernatorial nominee) Mark Robinson.  Our previous reporting indicates that the business is slated to shut down at the end of April.

A lot has happened today.  Yolanda Hill appears to have given an interview to WRAL about Balanced Nutrition.  In that interview, Hill appears to allege that she and her business are being harassed because of a vendetta against her by agency employees.  (Balanced Nutrition has been working with DHHS since 2017.) The evidence for the vendetta claim?  

Hill says some DHHS employees shared screenshots from her Facebook page in February 2023 on “state cell phones.”‘  Hill alleges that the employees IDed her as the wife of the lieutenant governor and accused her of trying to hide the fact.

Now, as you take that in, consider these communications between Hill and NCDHHS that we obtained today.   Remember the review that was to commence on Monday?  Well …..

That led to this response from NCDHHS:

[…] Dear Mr. Brooks:

NCDHHS confirms receipt of your communication dated April 15, 2024, on behalf of Ms. Yolanda Hill and Balanced Nutrition, Inc. declining to meet with NCDHHS officials regarding the federal fiscal year (FFY) 2023-2024 compliance review that was scheduled to begin that day without the presence of counsel.

The compliance review is a required component of participation in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). Balanced Nutrition, Inc. is currently an active participant in the CACFP, a federal program that provides reimbursement for nutritious meals and snacks to eligible children and adults who are enrolled for care at participating childcare centers, day care homes, and adult day care centers. While Balanced Nutrition, Inc. notified NCDHHS on April 2, 2024 of the intent to terminate from participation in the CACFP effective April 30, 2024, NCDHHS communicated that the scheduled compliance review would still be conducted. The compliance review is retrospective and Balanced Nutrition, Inc. is bound by legal and contractual obligations as a recipient of funds to the rules and regulations of the CACFP

The following notices have been provided to Balanced Nutrition, Inc. regarding the scheduled, announced compliance review:

• On March 1, 2024, NCDHHS sent an initial notice to Balanced Nutrition, Inc. Board Chair and Owner/CFO announcing the date of the compliance review from April 15, 2024, to April 19, 2024. This letter provided a list of documents requested prior to the review (to be submitted within 7 days of receipt of the notice), as well as documents that would need to be available for the on-site visit. NCDHHS has not received any of the requested documents to date. (See Attachment 1)

• On March 18, 2024, NCDHHS resent the notice to the Owner/CFO of Balanced Nutrition, Inc.(See Attachment 2)

• On April 1, 2024, NCDHHS sent a second notice to the Board Chair and Owner/CFO of Balanced Nutrition, Inc. regarding the scheduled compliance review. (See Attachment 3)

• On April 9, 2024, during a routine call to confirm the upcoming compliance review, a NCDHHS staff member asked if Ms. Hill had any questions about the review, and Ms. Hill indicated she did not have any questions.

Per the compliance letters, Federal regulations, and the Program Agreement:

• Institutions are required to “[m]aintain all program records, reports, and other documents pertaining to the CACFP at the Institution and participating facilit[ies]. Upon request, make all records pertaining to the Program available to the State, Federal, or other authorized officials for audit or compliance reviews, examinations, excerpts, and transcripts at a reasonable time. Failure to maintain and/or make records available may constitute grounds for denial of a claim for reimbursement and/or termination.”

Program Agreements are required to include “the right of the State agency, the Department, and other State or Federal officials to make announced or unannounced reviews of their operations during the institution’s normal hours of child or adult care operations.”

Institutions are required to “provide access to the Institution’s personnel for the purpose of interviews and discussion related to records, reports, and other documents pertaining to the CACFP at the Institution and participating facilit[ies].”

• “Missing, lost, or incomplete records may lead to a finding of serious deficiency, disallowances of reimbursement, and/or other adverse consequences. Because the necessary records must be presented during the on-site visit, it is your responsibility to ensure that an institution representative with access to all records be available during the specified time period.”

All participating CACFP sponsoring organizations are subject to, and are required to comply with, federal regulations governing the CACFP, including the requirement to make all records pertaining to the Program available to State agency officials for compliance reviews. Failure to participate in the CACFP compliance review process and furnish appropriate records can result in the issuance of a notice of serious deficiency.

The NCDHHS review team will be on-site at Balanced Nutrition, Inc. on Wednesday April 17, 2024, at 12:00 PM to proceed with the scheduled, announced compliance review. We ask that the requested documents be available to streamline the review process. Balanced Nutrition, Inc.’s counsel is welcome to be present to observe this compliance review.

We appreciate your attention to this important matter. Balanced Nutrition, Inc.’s role in this work is vitally important to providing nutritious meals to children in childcare settings across North Carolina.

Please respond no later than 5:00 PM Tuesday, April 16, 2024 confirming Balanced Nutrition, Inc.’s participation in the compliance review beginning on April 17, 2024 at 12:00 PM. […]

THAT communication led to this follow-up from NCDHHS:

[…] Dear Ms. Hill:

On Monday, April 15, 2024, NCDHHS General Counsel Julie Cronin received a letter via email from your attorney, Mr. B. Tyler Brooks, on which you were copied. The letter indicated that Balanced Nutrition, Inc. declined to meet with NCDHHS officials regarding the federal fiscal year (FFY) 2023-2024 compliance review that was scheduled to begin that day. As a result, the NCDHHS review team did not come on-site to Balanced Nutrition, Inc. as planned on Monday, April 15, 2024. NCDHHS Deputy General Counsel Raj Premakumar responded to Mr. Brooks on Tuesday, April 16, 2024, that the NCDHHS review team would arrive on-site on Wednesday, April 17 at 12:00pm to conduct the compliance review. We have attached that response to this email. We requested that Mr. Brooks confirm Balanced Nutrition, Inc.’s participation in the compliance review by 5:00pm on April 16, 2024. We did not receive confirmation from Mr. Brooks by the requested timeline.

The NCDHHS review team arrived on-site at Balanced Nutrition, Inc. on Wednesday, April 17 at 12:00pm and were greeted by you. You refused to participate in the compliance review due to the fact that your attorney was not present.

NCDHHS is offering a final opportunity to perform a rescheduled compliance review for Balanced Nutrition, Inc. starting on Monday, April 22nd at 12:00pm. As indicated in the notices, our team needs adequate time to conduct the review process.

Please respond no later than 12:00pm Friday, April 19, 2024, confirming Balanced Nutrition, Inc.’s participation in the compliance review beginning on April 22, 2024, at 12:00pm. […]

It sounds like things are getting a wee bit serious.  THAT letter was met with the following emailed response from Hill’s attorney: