Local News

Senate Committee Kills Funding For Hyman Foundation

Posted April 28, 2003 6:08 a.m. EDT

— One of Rep. Frank Ballance's pet projects has come under more scrutiny.

On Monday, a state Senate committee, on which Ballance once served, killed funding for the John Hyman Foundation.

The substance-abuse program is under fire for failing to document how it has spent taxpayer money.

Late Monday afternoon, the foundation submitted its financial documents for the past two years. The past-due reports may have come too late, however, because lawmakers have stopped funding.

Plus, they've called for a closer look at all so-called "pass-through funds."

Like many nonprofits, the Warrenton-based John Hyman Foundation operates on "pass-through funds." The Department of Correction allocates the funds, but the substance-abuse center spends taxpayer money with little oversight.

Sen. Scott Thomas said the Hyman Foundation's failure to show the money trail should serve notice to other programs that enjoy "pass-through funds."

Thomas said that, when it comes to monitoring taxpayers' money, "I think we need to improve on that."

The foundation's statements raise even more questions.

The 2001 report offers no explanation for where more than $97,000 in prevention grants went. Records show the foundation paid $37,000 in rent in 2001 and only $1,800 in 2002.

Eddie Lawrence serves as minister of the church that hosts the program. He also is paid as director of the foundation.

"I think we need more detail," Thomas said. "I think we need a thorough review, and I also think we need to be sure that all these reports are filed on time."

Gov. Mike Easley also invited more intense scrutiny of "pass-through" money.

"A lot of it is the old pork-barrel funding," Easley said. "It's one of the reasons I want a line-item veto."

Currently, programs like Hyman that receive less than $300,000 a year can fly under the radar because they don't have to submit to an audit.

"The more I look at it," said Easley, "the more I find programs that either aren't doing what they're supposed to or were good programs five, six, eight years ago, but aren't necessary now, have been replaced or duplicated."

Ballance's office provided more documentation to WRAL on Monday. It spells out the Hyman Foundation's payroll and mini-grants. The foundation also says the $37,000 in rent from 2001 covered more than four years.

The problem is, that information was not sent to DOC, which requested it.

Ballance was not available for comment Monday. But he has staunchly defended the program, saying it has reached thousands of people through counseling and prevention.