Commission nixes funding for Options|State agency cites outstanding debt in withholding funds

Published 3:27 pm Thursday, September 3, 2009

Staff Writer

A second state agency has — apparently — closed its checkbook to Options to Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.
A request for funding, from Options to the Governor’s Crime Commission, has been denied, according to Gwendolyn W. Burrell, executive director of the Governor’s Crime Commission, an agency of the N.C. Department of Crime Control and Public Safety. Among other activities, the Governor’s Crime Commission provides funds through its Crime Victims Service Committee to agencies that help victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.
Recently, Burrell said, Options requested “bridge” funds, but because of an outstanding debt of almost $52,000 owed to the Governor’s Crime Commission, Options was not eligible to receive any additional funds.
In addition, the commission told Options in a letter dated Aug. 26 that its plan for paying $100 a month on its debt is unsatisfactory.
“My office has received the response from Options regarding a repayment plan for the outstanding balance … that is owed to the Governor’s Crime Commission. Unfortunately, $100/month is not satisfactory to begin repayment of the $51,863.38 outstanding debt. While we are aware of the financial situation with Options, it does not negate the fact that agencies are ineligible for funding from the Governor’s Crime Commission when there is an outstanding balance owed for grants my office administers,” Burrell wrote.
“If Options is unable to repay the entire amount at the present time what we recommend is payment of a substantial lump sum with reasonable monthly payments thereafter,” Burrell wrote.
Earlier this week, Options officials said they were working to obtain emergency cash in order to avoid shutting down its operations.
Options, which is based in Washington, has for years provided advocacy and shelter services for battered women in Beaufort, Hyde, Martin, Tyrrell and Washington counties.
Efforts to reach Options Executive Director Theresa Andrews were unsuccessful. The Washington Daily News was told that she was in a meeting and would be unable to take telephone calls.
Earlier this week, the N.C. Council for Women/Domestic Violence Commission told Options that it was not eligible to receive 2009-2010 grant funding to provide services in Beaufort, Washington, Martin, Hyde and Tyrrell counties because “Option does not meet the statutory requirements to be eligible for domestic violence center funds.”
Options previously lost some of its funding after it refused to repay more than $50,000 the N.C. Governor’s Crime Commission insisted is owed the state because of improper spending by Options in the previous fiscal year. After a long fight with the state over grant funding, the organization ran out of money and other groups received appropriations to serve the area.
In February 2009, the commission sent a contract for renewed funding with the stipulation that it hire a new director to replace Lee anne Hanson-Niver and that it find board members from each of the counties it serves.
Options receives about $350,000 to $400,000 — or about 60 percent of its budget — in state funds, Andrews said previously.