Earlier this week, in came to light that the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DHS) had been having issues contacting officials at Lewisburg City Hall in regards to grant money totaling roughly $250,000.
Problems arose with the usually smooth transaction when, on Mar. 4, DHS conducted a monitoring visit to the city “to ensure that the sub-award is used for authorized purposes.” Such visits are not uncommon, as DHS and other federal departments are known to follow-up with projects and check compliance.
However, after their visit, DHS Director Michael Todorovich issued an email stating, “The monitoring resulted in several areas of noncompliance with federal regulation. These areas of noncompliance were communicated to the City of Lewisburg in the form of a Continuous Improvement Plan (CIP.)” The email states that the city was given a deadline of Apr. 30 to respond to the plan. After DHS received no response by that deadline, Todorovich said the funds would have to be repaid by July 31, and also directed that all mitigation grant projects be suspended. If the city did not respond by July 31, DHS would “have no choice but to begin disbarment proceedings… which would result in the city being ineligible for federal grant monies in the future.”
At that point, a week before the deadline, a West Virginia Daily News reporter contacted Lewisburg City Administrator Jacy Faulkner about the problem. Faulkner said this was the first she had heard about the issue, and swiftly reacted in order to gain an extended deadline to sort out why this fell through the cracks. Mayor Beverly White and Faulkner held a special session meeting at City Hall to address how this happened, and how to prevent it from happening in the future. DHS ultimately waived the city’s suspension on July 28, a mere three days before the deadline.
“With the 30-day extension we feel that the resolutions will be possible by that date,” said Faulkner. “This was not a misuse of funds in any way, just four small adjustments and administrative follow-up.” She also clarified that this DHS grant had nothing to do with former city employees or administrators. “We had a lead point of contact that was working with FEMA, as these funds are FEMA-related and have to do with the flood. Our point of contact at City Hall was getting correspondence and failed to notify the proper administrators.” Faulkner said, “We are working on balancing fair and manageable workloads, to prevent issues like this from arising in the future.”