DPS "perplexed" by PAR "concealing" money troubles

By Nikki

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV)Another letter has come out with harsh words for the nonprofit group, People Against Rape. This one is from the South Carolina Department of Public Safety.

The agency and DHEC recently stripped PAR of its grant money after learning of money troubles within the organization.

In a letter to PAR board members dated August 30th, DPS says PAR knew of financial irregularities since December 2011; however waited eight months to report them.

"It's heartbreaking for me. Some interpret those letters as if we didn't do what we should have done," said Dean Kilpatrick, one of the founding members of PAR and current board member. "In some ways I'm not surprised that the letter took that tone. I'm a little disappointed it did."

The DPS letter goes on to state:

We were surprised that the Board had not brought the matter to the attention of a law enforcement agency with a request to conduct a preliminary inquiry into possible embezzlement or breach of trust with fraudulent intent. We found this particularly perplexing because the president of the Board is a certified law enforcement officer employed by a police department. One would think that a months-long failure to disclose this possible theft eventually would reflect poorly on the Board members and executive staff of the agency.

Kilpatrick says its former bookkeeper engaged in several deceptive activities within the organization before abruptly resigning and moving to Florida.

"We don't know if the bookkeeper stole money. There's been a lot of attention on that. What we do know is that she submitted invoices for bills which she said had been paid that had not been paid," stated Kilpatrick. "Maybe we should have done more. Maybe we should have known more, but this particular employee was going to great lengths to keep us from being able to do that."

PAR's board president is Michael Roach, a long time officer with the Moncks Corner Police Department. Kilpatrick feels that since the organization money troubles have come to light, Roach has unfairly taken the brunt of the blame.

"His position was that we needed to get more of a handle of what actually happened before we report this to law enforcement and then report it to DPS and DHEC," stated Kilpatrick.

Kilpatrick says he understands how some people might question their decision to not report their organization's financial discrepancies immediately but they simply wanted to make sure the board had all their ducks in a row before doing so.

"Here's somebody (Roach) who is a trained law enforcement professional. He knows that if you go to somebody and say 'Well, I think there maybe something that is wrong' and they ask 'Well, tell me what it is' and you say 'Well, I have no idea.' Bottom line is at the time, we just didn't feel that we had enough information," stated Kilpatrick.

In another portion of the DPS letter to PAR, it reads:

It is commendable that the board members chose to come to SCDPS to "self-report" this fiscal mismanagement. However, they have known that there were serious financial problems involving our grant funds since at least December 2011 and yet chose not to inform us of these problems, even when OJP staff conducted on-site programmatic monitoring. Concealing this information from SCDPS for many months while submitting requests for grant reimbursement, does not indicate transparency or accountability.

"Their people were not able to detect this either--so it was hard to find," stated Kilpatrick.

Since late August, DPS has stopped all funding to PAR. DPS stated in the letter that:

We will consider lifting this "Stop Payment" upon receipt and examination of an outside audit of PAR as well as the full restitution of any grant funds that were reimbursed to PAR based on fraudulent documentation and verification that sound accounting practices have been implemented throughout the agency.

As the organization struggles to stay afloat with only volunteers, Kilpatrick says the organization is working hard to right a wrong.

"I think we deserve some credit for finding it and bringing it to their attention, and I think we deserve perhaps more credit for trying to focus on what we think is really the important thing which is to keep this organization going."

So far, PAR's former bookkeeper is not facing any charges; however SLED and the IRS are both investigating the case.