Healthcare, State Government

Dunbar Stop Part 6: Some final issues and parting comments

MORGANTOWN – In our final installment of our series on alleged misspending of public funds by the Dunbar School Foundation Stop program – offering COVID vaccine and testing services to the black community in a four-county area – we look at a few last issues raised and provide some final comments from both sides.

As a reminder, the Department of Health and Human Resources told The Dominion Post: “If you are asking whether the DSF administered the grant in accordance with all the terms and conditions of the grant, particularly as related to federal financial management standards, internal controls requirements, procurement standards, and cost principles, DHHR has reason to believe that the DSF did not fully comply due to the DSF’s overall lack of understanding with said terms and conditions.

“If you are asking whether the DSF knowingly engaged in acts of fraud or corruption or attempt to defraud the government or corrupt its agents; acts that constitute a cause for debarment or suspension; or acts which violate the False Claims Act or the Anti-kickback Act, DHHR has not yet made a formal declaration or issued a written opinion on the matter.”

ATM withdrawals

Stop records show three ATM withdrawals totaling $4,003. It’s not clear what this was spent on. “Once the review is complete, DHHR will have a better understanding of the financial system within the Dunbar School Foundation,” DHHR said again.

Marion County Health Department

A $25,000 contract with Marion County Health Department for storage, personnel and compliance was listed on the initial grant date in April 2021. But MCHD was never paid anything and was written out of the grant in the September 2021 change order.

DSF President and some others The Dominion Post spoke to on background questioned why this occurred.

Hodges said she learned from MCHD that all entities dispensing vaccine had to be independent, and DHHR was requiring that money allocated for MCHD services had to go instead to refrigerators and storage for vaccines at Stop’s downtown Fairmont headquarters. So Stop had to reallocate the funds in order to be compliant.

That led to Stop halting its program for two months because they could not handle vaccines until they became compliant, she said.

Final comments

Although Stop is now in the final month of its second grant and looking to the next fiscal year, Richardson still maintains that all the grant funds should have been channeled through DSF and not gone directly to Stop, and that an oversight committee should have been put in place.

Richardson also recently noted that Stop is several months delinquent on its rent payments for occupying the former Dunbar School cafeteria.

Hodges acknowledged the delinquency and said that as part of the DHHR review, the state said DSF and Stop did not have an arm’s length lease agreement; the state views them as one organization and doesn’t allow it to pay itself rent. So they have had to modify that line item in their budget and are waiting to hear back from the state.

Hodges asked us to talk to Pastor Wesley Dobbs of Morningstar Baptist Church for some supporting comments, and we called him.

Dobbs said, “I think that what they’ve done as far as the community is outstanding.” Stop visited his church twice offering vaccine shots and information. His church suffered an outbreak early on that sickened eight people, but after Stop go rolling there were no further outbreaks.

“They wanted to activate the community, they wanted to let them know the danger of COVID. … They really woke this community up.”

Stop also provided jobs for some people, he said. Rather than Stop’s spending, he said, the focus should be on the help it has given and the lives that were saved.

The Dominion Post has submitted some additional questions to DHHR about Stop records for Fiscal Year 2024, and is awaiting the completion of the review for a later story.

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