SLED to investigate PAR's mishandling of funds

By Lia

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - The State Law Enforcement Division is investigating the possible mismanagement of funds at People Against Rape.

This follows the plea for help from Board chairperson Michael Roach to the Charleston County Legislative Delegation Tuesday night. He says without funding, they may have to lay off the remaining paid employees by Friday.

According to Roach, PAR has less than $600 in its coffers. The nonprofit reported last week that it believes a former bookkeeper stole up to $80,000 from the organization.

Following that, a state grant worth nearly $300,000 from the Department of Public Safety was suspended.

DPS Communications Director Sherri Iacobelli released this statement Wednesday:

"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. "

"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."

State Reps. Chip Limehouse and Wendell Gilliard have contacted DPS as well as DHEC, another grant provider, on PAR'S behalf.

"People need to understand the importance of having this entity in our community. PAR you cannot say enough about. They are our unsung heroes in our community," Gilliard said.

Limehouse said he believes the funding issue is a wake up call for the nonprofit.

"PAR needs to get back on the track of private funding," he said. "PAR needs to rewrite their funding formula and quit depending on the government and government funding because that's drying up."

The two lawmakers are preparing a letter to submit to the state departments requesting to those funds be restored.