Options regains grant compliance

Published 11:29 pm Saturday, January 12, 2008

By Staff
First-quarter state funding released to domestic-violence agency
Staff Writer
A local domestic-violence advocacy agency, embroiled in a funding dispute with state and federal agencies in late 2007, began the new year with confirmation that its management is again on the right track.
Based on a December meeting with management of Options to Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, the agency’s state and federal funding sources recommended the release of first-quarter 2008 funding to the Washington-based battered women’s shelter. Funding had been halted pending an investigation into Options’ grant compliance that started in August.
Those funds total $41,122 from the N.C. Council for Women/Domestic Violence Commission, Options’ state funding source, according to a Jan. 7 letter to Options from the CFW.
Representatives of the CFW met with Options Executive Director Lee anne Hanson-Niver and the agency’s board of directors on Dec. 21. Following that meeting, the agency was found to be in compliance with state and federal grant guidelines and it was recommended that funding be released to the agency.
Options has received no confirmation from the Governor’s Crime Commission that federal funding will be restored to the agency, according to Hanson-Niver.
Hanson-Niver said Friday that she emerged from the December meeting with the CFW “hopeful that a new level of professionalism” in state agency management would ensure a positive future for her and other domestic violence agencies. She has maintained that the CFW and the Governor’s Crime Commission, Option’s funnel for federal funding, led a “witch hunt” against Options based on the complaints of “disgruntled former employees.”
Options’ management was informed in October that the agency was not in compliance with state and federal funding guidelines. A probe was launched into the agency’s management after several former Options employees filed grievances with the state agencies.
A probe was launched by both funding agencies into Options’ grant compliance based on the phone calls. In Oct. 24 a letter to Options, Mel Chilton, executive director of the N.C. Council for Women, laid out the points of non-compliance. Federal and state funding was withheld while the agencies investigated Options’ adherence to grant guidelines.
Chilton’s findings included staff training, a conflict of interest issue regarding a staff member, administrative staff and board attendance at State Auditor’s Board of Director’s Training, failure to follow State Abuser Treatment Certification Program guidelines, spending of state funding and the repayment of an overcharge to grants in fiscal year 2006-2007.
Leslie Parker, northeast regional director for the CFW, wrote Chilton Jan. 3 that Options had satisfied training recommendations made by the CFW following the initial probe.
Parker also noted that Hanson-Niver has hired a “personal consultant to assist her with programmatic issues and staffing,” and that the Options Board of Directors is supporting Hanson-Niver in her efforts to comply with funding guidelines. She also recommended that funding not be released until a letter was received from Hanson-Niver confirming a resolution to the conflict of interest issue, a letter was sent to District Court Judge Samuel Grimes confirming the cancellation of program targeting abusers and the reimbursement of $6,500 to the CFW.
Based on the Dec. 21 meeting and Options’ completion of Parker’s recommendations, Chilton wrote Hanson-Niver Jan. 7 that “effective January 7, 2008 the first quarter funds totaling $41,122.00 are to be released.”
Hanson-Niver and the Options board were also placed under special conditions to which they must adhere to for further funding to be released. They include specific staff and board training regimens and adherence to budgeting processes and reporting requirements.