Senate Finance Chairman Questions West Virginia Disaster Relief Organization’s Financial Practices

Senate Finance Chairman Questions West Virginia Disaster Relief Organization's Financial Practices

West Virginia VOAD Faces Scrutiny Over Fraud Charges and Alleged Misuse of Funds

The Senate Finance chairman, Eric Tarr, recently interrogated the executive director of West Virginia Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) regarding the organization’s financial practices. VOAD, which plays a crucial role in disaster relief efforts in the state, has come under scrutiny following the arrest of its former finance and operations manager on charges of fraud and money laundering. Additionally, concerns have been raised about the misuse of funds and the hiring of relatives within the organization. Tarr’s questioning aimed to shed light on these allegations and ensure accountability within the organization.

Allegations of Misconduct and Hiring of Relatives

During a legislative interim meeting, Senator Tarr posed a series of questions to Jenny Gannaway, the executive director of West Virginia VOAD. Tarr began by referencing videos and pictures that had surfaced, questioning Gannaway’s personal behaviors within VOAD. Gannaway denied any wrongdoing but did admit to hiring several family members to work for the organization.

Tarr further inquired about the hiring process and specifically asked if Gannaway had hired her brother, nephew, great niece, and great nephew-in-law. While Gannaway confirmed the employment of her brother and great niece, she denied hiring her nephew and a relative of her brother’s wife. Notably, Gannaway mentioned that the hires were made during the challenging period of the COVID-19 pandemic when finding employees was difficult. She also emphasized that she did not directly supervise any relatives she had hired.

Alleged Misuse of Donated Items

In addition to the hiring concerns, Tarr questioned Gannaway about allegations of taking donated items meant for flood relief and using them for personal purposes. Gannaway clarified that she had made donations in exchange for the materials she took. According to her, VOAD had permission to accept donations for items that could not be distributed to flood survivors. Gannaway claimed to have given significant donations in return for the items she took, including a total of $2,600 and an $800 generator donated to the organization.

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Tarr pressed Gannaway about specific items mentioned, such as a patio furniture set, a grill, a refrigerator, and a toilet, asking if any of them had been taken to her house in Matewan or any of her other homes. Gannaway vehemently denied that any of the items had been taken to her house in Matewan. However, she admitted to taking some items to her house in Roanoke but stated that she had since donated them to someone else.

Conclusion:

The Senate Finance chairman’s questioning of West Virginia VOAD’s executive director revealed significant concerns about the organization’s financial practices. The hiring of relatives without board approval, coupled with allegations of misusing donated items, raise questions about accountability and transparency within the organization. While Gannaway denied any direct involvement in misconduct, the ongoing investigation and upcoming sentencing hearing of the former finance and operations manager indicate a need for further scrutiny. As West Virginia continues to face the challenges of disaster relief, it is crucial that organizations like VOAD maintain the highest standards of integrity to effectively serve the community in times of crisis.