North Charleston nonprofit still facing financial hurdles

      NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- A North Charleston nonprofit is still in trouble financially.

      Officials from People Against Rape said Tuesday the group has less than $600 in its coffers and could soon be forced to lay off its remaining two employees by Friday.

      Also, officials said, the office in North Charleston could be closed in less than a month if funding is not found to pay the rent.{}

      The announcements come just a week after PAR said it would lay off 11 workers because a former bookkeeper allegedly mismanaged $60,000 to $80,000.

      Michael Roach, PAR Board president, asked Tuesday for continued state funding.

      PAR provides services like hospital accompaniment as well as a 24-hour hotline.{}

      An investigation is underway regarding the former bookkeeper. An audit is also underway.

      It is unclear when the investigation or the audit will be completed.{}

      The South Carolina Department of Public Safety released the following statement Wednesday:

      The South Carolina Department of Public Safety has suspended grant funding to the People Against Rape (PAR), a 501(c) (3) serving Charleston County and portions of Dorchester and Berkeley counties. The SCDPS Office of Justice Programs, which disburses federal grant funds, informed PAR's Board of Directors of this action on Friday, August 31. DPS currently funds four Victims of Crime Act grants, and one Violence Against Women Act Grant with the agency. The suspension of funds came after an August 23 meeting between SCDPS and PAR in which the agency reported to DPS regarding the misallocation of funds. According to the Board, the irregularities in the center's finances stemmed from a former bookkeeper who had submitted reimbursement requests to SCDPS for expenses that had not been paid by PAR. She has since resigned from PAR. However, because the Board was unable to provide SCDPS with documentation outlining {}the extent of the misappropriation or the amount of money involved, PAR's grant funding, totaling more than $276,000, was suspended. DPS has set specific conditions that PAR must meet for SCDPS to consider reinstatement of funds: submit to an outside audit of its financial practices to determine the nature and extent of the misappropriation of federal funds, reimburse the agency for any misallocated funds and verify that sound accounting practices have been implemented throughout the agency. Additionally, SCDPS has requested a preliminary inquiry from the State Law Enforcement Division regarding this matter. {}

      "SCDPS has a duty to oversee and protect public funds that provide vital services and support to agencies such as PAR," said OJP Administrator Burke Fitzpatrick. {}"At this point, we do not feel confident in PAR's ability to properly manage its grant funding. It is extremely unfortunate that these circumstances have forced us to make a decision that impacts both the victims of crime who are served through PAR and the employees who have provided compassionate services in the Lowcountry. The board is in agreement that an audit needs to be conducted. It is our hope that they will act expeditiously to provide us the audit documentation that will help determine the course of action we take on this matter."{}