West Virginia AIDS Group Accused of Mishandling State Funds
John Brown, treasurer of Charleston AIDS Network, which promotes AIDS awareness in the Charleston, W.Va., gay community, has accused an economic development group that works to spread AIDS awareness in the black community of failing to account for almost $30,000 in state funds, the Charleston Daily Mail reports. In March, Brown requested under the Freedom of Information Act invoices and correspondence between REDEEM, or Realizing Economic Development through Education, Enterprise and Morals, and the West Virginia AIDS Program. He said that the documents show that REDEEM failed to account for 11 monthly $2,684 state fund payments intended to go toward AIDS programs last year. The state ceased funding REDEEM in December.
A letter to REDEEM Director Romona Taylor-Williams from John Hamilton, an official with the state AIDS program, explained that funding was stopped because the group failed to submit quarterly financial statements, quarterly progress reports, quarterly supplemental progress reports, a final progress report due on Jan. 20, 2001, and regular monthly meeting minutes from educational programs. Hamilton also said that representatives from REDEEM failed to attend two of three quarterly alliance meetings, did not attend AIDS Advisory Council meetings and did not "develo[p] and maintai[n] a working relationship" with the HIV Care Consortium, the case management arm of the state program. Taylor-Williams said she is still working on the reports, which became back-logged because "most of our work is frontline action, a lot of times the reporting gets behind," she explained. After Brown distributed 1,000 pamphlets at a weekend festival to "make the black community aware of his concerns," Taylor-Williams said that the allegations and the fliers are "slanderous" to REDEEM. She said that Brown's group is "trying to retaliate for REDEEM's advocacy positions against the Charleston Housing Authority," a group to which she said she thinks the network has ties. Brown said that no one on the network's board of directors "had anything to do with the housing authority" and asked that if the reports are not filed that the funds be returned so the money can be used by another advocacy group (Wrenn, Charleston Daily Mail, 8/9).