Murrah Disaster Relief Fund to be audited
BY BARBARA HOBEROCK World Capitol Bureau
Thursday, November 08, 2012
11/08/12 at 3:15 PM
Nov. 7: OKC bombing group to seek help
Nov. 4: OKC survivors' group seeks answers
Nov. 4: Victims struggle to get help
OKLAHOMA CITY -- The foundation overseeing a fund to aid those affected by the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on Thursday agreed to an independent audit following criticism over its administration.
The Murrah Disaster Relief Fund was created in 1995 as a result of an outpouring of financial support from across the country.
"The Oklahoma City Community Foundation has been a national model for fund management for more than 40 years," said Steve Mason, immediate past chairman and current trustee of the Oklahoma City Community Foundation, which administers the fund. "We welcome the opportunity to shed light on any questions or concerns the public may have about the Disaster Relief Fund."
Critics of the fund's handling on Thursday were expected to deliver a letter to Gov. Mary Fallin asking that the $10 million be removed from the foundation and divided among victims.
Holly Sweet, a Tulsa resident who donated to the fund, said she thinks an independent audit should have been done years ago.
She said administrators of the fund have denied requests by victims and treated them poorly.
She said Thursday's announcement does not change her opinion that the funds should be removed and distributed to victims.
Former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating was in office when the bombing occurred.
"Over the past 17 years the Oklahoma City Community Foundation has remained one of the primary resources for providing ongoing assistance with the medical and educational needs of victims and their families," Keating said. "It is imperative that we assure the public that their donations have been managed and disbursed properly."
The nonprofit foundation set aside $4.4 million in earnings from the Oklahoma City Disaster Relief Fund for other purposes at a time survivors said their requests to fund surgeries and other needs were being denied.
Records show $2 million was allocated for a "community infrastructure fund," while $1.5 million was set aside for an endowment for the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum.
The museum only receives interest from the fund and does not control the endowment. Additionally, $900,000 in earnings was set aside for studies that haven't been done and contributions to other disaster funds.
Some survivors told the Tulsa World the foundation refused to pay for their educational costs because they were too old or because they could take out loans.
Keating told the World recently that when promises were made to pay for survivors' educational costs, no such limitations were placed on the funds.
Keating said the foundation should focus on helping survivors instead of " preserving the corpus of the funds."
Gov. Mary Fallin applauded the Oklahoma City Community Foundation for being proactive in making sure the fund "is being spent and used appropriately."
"Over the years, I have worked with Gov. Keating and others to help survivors and to raise funds providing assistance for the medical and educational needs of families affected by the bombing.
"Like all Oklahomans, I want to guarantee the individuals are receiving proper assistance through the Murrah Disaster Relief fund."
World Enterprise Editor Ziva Branstetter contributed to this story.
In this April 19 file photo, an estimated crowd of 2,000 attended the Remembrance Ceremony to mark the 17th anniversary of the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City in which 168 people were killed. JIM BECKEL/NewsOK.com