State agency reinstates funding for Options

Published 4:47 am Friday, February 20, 2009

By Staff
Support group may have money by next week
Staff Writer
A key state agency has reinstated funding to a local domestic-violence support group.
The state sent a contract for renewed funding to Options to Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, which its board accepted unanimously Thursday, said spokesman Trent Tetterton.
The funding will allow Options to stay open through the end of March, he said. The group hopes to have a check by the middle of next week.
Options — which is based in Washington — had for years provided advocacy and shelter services for battered women in Beaufort, Hyde, Martin, Tyrrell and Washington counties.
But after a long fight with the state over grant funding, the organization ran out of funds, and other groups have been getting money to serve the area.
The group lost its funding after the Governor’s Crime Commission determined it owed almost $52,000 in grant funds that either weren’t spent or were spent on items not covered by the grants.
With some funding restored, the shelter will begin working to restaff, Tetterton said.
Since Options funding was revoked, authority for grant funding has been split between two entities. The crime commission controls federal money, which it has been redistributing to other nearby groups, and the Department of Administration controls state grants.
The decision on whether to restore funding was delayed while the Office of the State Auditor reviewed Options’ finances. That review found funds had been poorly accounted for and spent on unapproved items, but not stolen.
Options board member Darwin Woolard said the funding is essential to the well-being of women in the five-county area.
He added later, “I’m not comparing them, but if we must (at the state’s behest) have an animal shelter in every county, I don’t see why we should not have ample care for battered women and for children in all five of these counties.”
Woolard said Options is trying to turn over a new leaf with the state. The group has already found a new financial officer and is looking for a new executive director, he said.
An executive director search committee has been formed: Its members are Tetterton; Carol Williams, the group’s new finance officer; and group Attorney Wayland J. Sermons Jr.
Hiring a new executive director is one of the contract’s stipulations, Tetterton said. He noted the contract also requires Options to find board members from each of the counties it serves. Options has identified potential board members, but has waited to bring them on board until funding was secured, Tetterton said.
Seth Edwards, district attorney for the prosecution district that includes Beaufort County, will serve on the board, Tetterton said. Options is seeking members from Hyde, Tyrrell and Washington counties, he added.
Lucas said the state is still waiting for the contract to be returned with signatures.