Council President Shabazz releases state audit results of discretionary fund
Last summer, I 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 conflict of interest connected to the award.
I approved the grant of $40,000 to the PAL of Wilmington to administer a pilot program through Student Disabilities Advocate, Inc. (SDA).
The SDA program was a worth-while community service endeavor that lines up with City Council’s priorities in serving its residence. It was also an endeavor that had the staunch support of former Wilmington City Council President Theopalis Gregory.
Its not unusual for a member of Wilmington City Council to articulate their support for an initiative, champion the work of an outside organization or establish partnerships with entities like SDA that share our priorities.
It is, however, unacceptable for a council member to articulate such support for their own benefit.
After calling for the audit on August 28, 2017, I and council staff began exploring and subsequently implemented measures to enhance transparency and scrutiny related to grant proposals submitted for Community Support funding.
Our team 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.
Some of those measures include:
- Establishing a grant review panel that includes the participation of the City Auditor
- 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
- Plans to create an annual report to highlight the impact of the Community Support Funding on the city’s strategic planning priorities
A copy of the September 2017 legislation outlining the details of the above measures and other documents related to this matter can be found below.
I appreciate the efforts of the team that produced the audit and accept its recommendation to conduct an additional review of grants of $5,000 or more from fiscal year 2014 through the beginning of the current session of the Wilmington City Council.
This incident and audit revealed a need for greater scrutiny in our policy, which we’ve since implemented.
We take the integrity of these grant requests very seriously and I’d rather end the grant program altogether than cast any doubt in the minds of the people of Wilmington that we’re doing anything other than what we should be for the sole benefit of the the city’s residents.
President Wilmington City Council