State Government

Office of Inspector General investigating Dunbar School Foundation STOP program

MORGANTOWN – A COVID-19 program created to serve the African-American population in Marion and surrounding counties and funded through federal COVID funds channeled through the former Department of Health and Human Resources is under investigation by the state Office of Inspector General.

The Dominion Post learned of the investigation on Monday in response to a Freedom of Information Act request sent March 29 and received by the Department of Human Services on April 1. Among the OIG’s duties is “conducting investigations of suspected fraud and abuse within the programs the department administers.”

Dunbar High School.

The program is the Dunbar School Foundation STOP (also called DSF Stop). The Dominion Post ran a series of stories on allegations of misspending by program leaders starting in May 2023.

We learned at the time that DSF Stop was already under DDR review – a review beyond routine monitoring procedures that began in July 2022, based on a tip that led DHHR to consider the DSF (Stop’s parent organization) “to be a high-risk grantee that warrants additional monitoring beyond the standard level of monitoring that is required for all DHHR grant awards.”

DSF Stop ceased operations in June 2023 and abandoned its headquarters building near downtown Fairmont, across the street from the former Dunbar High School.

The Dominion Post subsequently kept in regular contact with DHHR for updates on the review and was repeatedly told the review was continuing and there was no projected completion date.

Following the breakup of DHHR into three entities, The Dominion Post was directed on Feb. 22 this year to two media contacts in the Department of Human Services, who did not respond to requests for updates sent Feb. 22 and March 5.

The newspaper then submitted a FOIA request for DSF Stop financials and documentation of any agency reviews of DSF Stop dating from April 1, 2023.

The request was denied, Monday’s letter said, because the OIG has an open and active investigation into DSF. All records in its possession have been obtained and compiled as part of the investigation and are exempt from FOIA. Additional records are deliberative and reflect OIG’s internal decision-making process and are also exempt.

Stop received two grants to conduct its operations. Its initial grant budget for the period April 1, 2021, through June 30, 2022, was $1,197,421. A second grant, for July 1, 2022, through May 31, 2023, was for $990,000.

The allegations, detailed in the newspaper’s series of stories, covered such things as nepotism, excessive executive salaries and bonuses, luxury vehicle rentals, potentially improper ATM withdrawals and potentially improper spending on travel and food.

Sources familiar with the DSF Stop program were unable to comment on the investigation.