Scathing audit accuses Pa. Coalition Against Domestic Violence of mishandling public funds, donations

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – An audit of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence raises concerns of how the nonprofit handles grant money and donations.

The Department of Human Services, which helps ensure those funds are used appropriately, released the audit this week. It outlines $680,564 in “questioned costs” between July 2013 and June 2015.

The report says thousands of dollars in professional baseball game tickets were charged as a “meeting expense.” It goes on to say the organization did not have a formal budget process, with executive director Peg Dierkers permitted to authorize her own reimbursement expenses.

Auditors allege that “donations were not always recorded in such a way that the purpose of the donation was maintained.” The report gives an example of a $14,000 check that “did not show the purpose of the donation or any restrictions.”

The audit goes on to say that the board did not review spending and relied on Dierkers’ reports, which “often did not match the accounting records.”

Auditors also made observations based on interviews about Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence’s work environment. The report calls those interviews “consistent and concerning.”

According to the audit, “staff reported management yelling at them, slamming doors, throwing objects, lunging at one individual, and other actions they thought were designed to minimize complaints or pressure staff into actions they felt were questionable.”

The report goes on to say that kind of work environment can lead to higher turnover and greater costs.

In a written response included with audit documents, Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence calls the audit “cryptic and unspecific text,” saying “the criticisms consist largely of erroneous judgments,” with “failure and refusal to consider actual facts.”

The response also took issue with the audit’s wording. For example, the nonprofit says it does not understand what the Department of Human Services means when it writes about a “formal budgeting process.”

Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence goes on to show its own calculations, yielding different numbers than those of Human Services.

ABC27 could not determine which calculations were correct since it did not have access to original source materials for either the Department of Human Services or Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

The closest Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence came to agreeing with any part of the audit was a line about voucher documents which said, “certainly mistakes occur from time to time.”

ABC27 went to the nonprofit organization’s headquarters and spoke with director of communicators Steve Halvonik. He would not go on camera, saying he “did not want to give credence to such a trivial matter.”

He told ABC27 it did not “really have a story” if he did not speak on camera, telling reporter Amanda St. Hilaire to “have fun” trying to put together a report with only the audit documentation.

In a statement, Department of Human Services Secretary Ted Dallas said: “Any time you are dealing with public funds and the public’s trust, it is of great importance. The department is committed to making sure the funds are spent appropriately. We are currently reviewing the audit findings and recommendations including the distribution of grants. As with all of the programs we administer, our focus is on ensuring that the grants funds are spent appropriately and efficiently to ensure that the highest possible percentage of funds are spent on the direct provision of services at the local level.”

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