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

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

Senate Finance chairman Eric Tarr raises concerns about West Virginia Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) during legislative meetings.

West Virginia Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD), a key player in the state’s disaster relief efforts, is facing scrutiny over its financial practices. The organization, which relies on public funding to support its relief work, has come under fire following allegations of fraud and money laundering by its former finance and operations manager. Additionally, discrepancies regarding the use of funds have led to the rescission of a $50,000 grant from the Kanawha County Commission. In the midst of these controversies, Senate Finance Chairman Eric Tarr has raised questions about VOAD’s operations, including the hiring of relatives and the alleged misappropriation of relief items.

Hiring Practices and Allegations of Nepotism

During legislative interim meetings, Chairman Tarr directed a series of questions to Jenny Gannaway, the executive director of West Virginia VOAD. Tarr began by addressing allegations of questionable behavior by Gannaway and other VOAD employees. Gannaway denied any wrongdoing but admitted to hiring several family members without board approval. Tarr pressed further, asking about the hiring of Gannaway’s brother, great niece, and great nephew-in-law. Gannaway confirmed these hires but denied hiring a relative of her brother’s wife. She justified these decisions by citing the difficulties in finding employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Misappropriation of Relief Items

Tarr also questioned Gannaway about the alleged misappropriation of items donated for flood relief efforts. Gannaway claimed that she had permission to take donations that could not be distributed to flood survivors and had made donations in exchange for the materials. When asked about specific items mentioned, such as a patio furniture set, grill, refrigerator, and toilet, Gannaway denied that they were taken to her house in Matewan. However, she admitted to taking some items to her house in Roanoke but claimed to have donated them to someone else after making a donation for their value.

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The Senate Finance chairman’s inquiry into West Virginia VOAD’s financial practices has shed light on several concerning issues. The organization’s hiring practices, particularly the employment of relatives without board approval, raise questions about transparency and accountability. Additionally, the allegations of misappropriation of donated items call into question the organization’s integrity and adherence to ethical standards. As VOAD continues its vital work in disaster relief, it is crucial for the organization to address these concerns and ensure that public funds are being used appropriately and effectively.