Healthcare, State Government

Dunbar Stop COVID program: Early missteps set up disagreements

MORGANTOWN – In Part 3 of our review of alleged misspending by the Dunbar School Foundation Stop program, we’ll look some missteps and apparent misperceptions early on that appear to have set up the disagreements.

DSF President Houston Richardson told The Dominion Post that Stop CEO Romelia Hodges has not been accountable for how she spends the federal COVID grant money passed through the state Department of Health and Human Resources. We presented that disagreement at length in our first story.

We asked Richardson: Does the foundation believe she took more authority than granted?

He said, “We didn’t grant her anything. She did what she wanted to do.”

This is another instance where DSF board minutes reflect something else.

The Aug. 23, 2021, minutes, under the heading “Executive Privileges,” say:

“Romelia and Tiffany [Samuels, former COO] requested the board to approve Executive Privileges within the grant. This will allow them the authority to make decisions on employees, compensation, bonuses, and other items that are allowable within the confines of the grant.”

That was moved, seconded and approved.

Richardson has said that the board lacked the expertise to establish and oversee a COVID program. He regrets that he realized too late they should should have set up an independent oversight committee to oversee all aspects of Stop’s operations.

“I did not know that I needed an oversight committee,” he said. By the time he understood, money had already been spent and modifications to the former school cafeteria had begun.

The June 17, 2021, minutes – when the board learned that the $1.2 million COVID grant had been awarded – say that Hodges and Samuels volunteered to provide two additional board members (the board has four members) to aid with all the projects the board was handling. Hodges’ husband, Patrick Hodges (who receives Stop funds as a paid contractor for executive services) “was the first nomination for his experience in finance.”

Hodges and Samuels said they’d have a full list of nominations by the next board meeting.

The minutes for that meeting, Aug. 23, 2021, say, “Houston provided a list of five people that he would like to bring onto an advisory council to oversee the Dunbar STOP. He proposed the council as opposed to adding additional board members. Regina [Riley, board secretary] stated that she is not familiar with everyone on the list and is uncertain about this approach. The topic was tabled to discuss at a later time.

Richardson said the discussion never happened and no council or committee was appointed.

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