City Auditor cites “good feeling” about Council community support funding process after completing review requested by President
WILMINGTON– While a recently completed review of Community Service grants distributed between 2014 and the start of the current session of the Wilmington City Council turned up some instances that question compliance, measures to address such issues have been in place for nearly a year.
“After reviewing the City Council grants of over $5,000 I walked away with a good feeling, as far as the controls that have been put in place by the current Council to mitigate the concerns that were raised by the State audit,” said Terence Williams, City Auditor. “I don’t think there will be an issue going forward, as long as the application process is completed and the requestors are 100 percent compliant.”
In the summer of 2017, Wilmington City Council President Hanifa Shabazz asked the office of the State Auditor to review activities around a disbursement made to the Police Athletic League of Wilmington (PAL) from the Wilmington City Council’s Community Support Fund after questions were raised about a perceived conflict of interest connected to the award.
Though the results of the audit determined there to be no evidence that President Shabazz approved the PAL grant knowing there was a conflict of interest, then State Auditor Tom Wagner recommended “that Council and the City consider performing a review of all dollars granted since 2014, when the discretionary fund was increased.”
“We took the State Auditor’s advice and requested the Wilmington City Auditor conduct a review of grant activity prior to this session of the Wilmington City Council,” said President Shabazz. “We’re glad we did, because the results of the City audit have essentially shown us that we’re on solid ground with our grant process.”
In response to public questions around the perceived conflict, President Shabazz directed council staff to began exploring and subsequently implemented measures to enhance transparency and scrutiny related to grant proposals submitted for Community Support funding.
The Council staff also conducted thorough research and outreach to officials in Wilmington and other cities that manage similar funding programs and have since adopted a number of measures in place in cities like New York and Richmond, Virginia.
Those measures include:
- Establishing a grant review panel
- Creation of a policy and procedures manual for Council Members and staff for the processing of Community Support Fund grant applications
- Requiring more information from applicants outlining specific plans for the funding as well as affiliations in an effort to better identify potential conflicts
- Making grant funding data available on the City Council’s web site
- Lining up Community Support Grant awards with the 107th Session of the Wilmington City Council’s Strategic Plan and priorities
“We take the integrity of these grant requests very seriously,” said President Shabazz. “This is yet another step toward full Council transparency that we’re taking to ensure our residents are getting the representation they want and deserve as we continue to move Wilmington forward.”
Council Chief of Staff