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Great Bend helps Crisis Center with grant appeal
County Commission chastises treasurer for audit deficiencies
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 Family Crisis Center Director Laura Patzner’s story touched a nerve with Great Bend City Council members Monday night, moving them to step in make sure a key source of the agency’s funding remains intact.

Patzner told of the possible loss of $76,388 in grant funds, or about 10 percent of the center’s Domestic and Sexual Violence Center budget, due to problems with Barton County’s 2013 audit originating in the Treasurer’s Office. These problems prompted the Kansas Housing Resources Corporation to deny the grant for this year.

She came to the council asking for help, asking if it would authorize the city to be sponsoring grantee in lieu of the county. Noting the money only flows through the city, the council was glad to oblige. 

“The Family Crisis Center runs only on grants and fundraisers,” said Councilwoman Allene Owen, who also serves on the FCC board. That makes this money all that more important.

“These funds were awarded to Barton County as the grantee and they passed through the funds to our agency as the subgrantee,” she said. The money paid for a full-time shelter advocate with fringe benefits and training, shelter food, supplies, maintenance, light repairs and utilities.

However, during a compliance review, concerns were noted about Barton County’s single audit and findings, she said. “As a result, they sent a letter stating they will not allocate funding for the 2016 grant year.” 

County Administrator Richard Boeckman and Patzner contacted the KHRC last week, to discuss any options available to continue to receive this funding. Representatives advised that an appeal could be made with the suggestion that the City of Great Bend could take over as the grantee. 

“These funds have allowed us to provide life skills, transportation, parenting support and other supportive services,” Patzner said. “The loss of these funds would be devastating to shelter services and to our agency. We have a very tight budget that cannot absorb this kind of loss making it necessary to eliminate a full-time position and reducing services.”

The agency has received funds through the Emergency Solutions Grant for the past two years, Patzner said. The ESG funds are through the federal Housing and Urban Development Department and are administered by Kansas Housing Resources Corporation for homeless services including those homeless due to domestic violence. 

The funds are available as of now, Patzner said. The KHRC suggested getting the appeal in quickly and also suggested sending all of the relevant paperwork signed and including a copy of the city’s most recent single audit to confirm that it is a financially sound option.

Deficiencies linger

On Monday morning, Patzner went before the Barton County Commission to discuss the grant and its loss. “That really allows us to provide more complete services to the victims of domestic violence,” she said.

She wished should could have kept the partnership with the county, but that was not possible. “You all have been an incredible resource for us.”

The letter from the KHRC was critical of the Treasurer’s Office and its failure to reconcile bank records and tax rolls, Boeckman said. State officials are concerned on the lack of internal controls and the impact on county finances.

This has created a lack of trust in the county on the part of the state, Boeckman said. 

Boeckman said he’s visited with County Treasurer Kevin Wondra about the problems and has been assured they will be solved. But, not soon enough.

Unfortunately, there are still lingering reconciliation issues from last year that will create deficiencies in the 2014 audit as well.

Wondra said the shortcomings have been taken care of “for the most part.” He said he continues to work with his staff to get it all resolved.

“I personally apologize on behalf of the county and the county treasurer” for the loss of the grant, Commissioner Don Davis said. He then wondered out loud if Wondra knew how to do his job.

“I find this very distressing,” Commissioner Jennifer Schartz said. “This demonstrates a lack of leadership. We have worked with him.”

The treasurer is an elected official, so there is nothing the commission can do, she said. The commission has asked Wondra to resign. 

“It’s no surprise the federal government doesn’t have any faith in the county treasurer,” Schartz said. “We don’t have any faith in the county treasurer.”

This marks the first time the fallout from last year’s audit woes have hit a non-profit organization.

“Your integrity and the integrity of your department has been damaged,” Davis said. “But, it can be fixed.”