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Ballance Apologizes, But Stands Up For Hyman Foundation

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WARRENTON, N.C. — A veteran North Carolina lawmaker faces lingering questions about a taxpayer-funded program that he helped create.

First District Rep. Frank Ballance admitted Thursday that the nonprofit John Hyman Foundation has documentation problems. But he defended its worth to the community.

The Hyman Foundation failed to file financial reports to the Department of Correction and to the IRS. Ballance, chairman of the board, apologized Thursday -- saying the DOC will get documentation by Monday and the IRS soon afterwards.

Still, that hasn't stopped people from asking: "Where's the money going?"

Close to a quarter of a million taxpayer dollars come each year to Greenwood Baptist Church, which serves as headquarters for the Hyman Foundation. The substance-abuse counseling center was founded through Ballance's influence.

"These aren't private dollars," said Hal Sharpe, publisher of the

Littleton Observer.

"They're tax dollars."

Sharpe has investigated the foundation for months, dubbing the story "HymanGate." His paper even counts the days that Ballance fails to return his calls.

Sharpe said he started out looking for a positive story on what the foundation does. Instead, he can't find evidence it even exists.

"The problem is, where is it?" he said. "Who's on the staff? Do they observe any office hours? It is somewhat of a gray area."

Department of Correction Controller Paul Gross cut off funding when the foundation didn't submit financial records for two straight years. But he said these so-called "pass-through" funds come straight from the legislature.

Ballance said Thursday that "there is no excuse.

"The reports should have been done," he said. "We made a mistake."

Even when the Hyman Foundation issued financial documentation, it wasn't exactly a wealth of information. What the foundation issued to the DOC for the fiscal year that ended in June of 2000 was one page. If you look at the major expenses like salaries, it doesn't report who made how much for what. It also doesn't explain where $72,000 in mini grants went."

Despite the documentation lapses, Ballance stands by the foundation. He said hundreds have been helped with drug-abuse counseling, and thousands more have been touched by prevention education.

The state auditor has been called in to investigate the foundation.

Speaking of missing documents, the State Board of Elections notified Ballance that he failed to file campaign finance reports last year. Ballance called it a misunderstanding, saying he didn't think he needed to file state reports because he ran for Congress and not state Senate.

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