Foundation agrees to audit of Murrah Disaster Relief Fund
BY BARBARA HOBEROCK World Capitol Bureau
Friday, November 09, 2012
11/27/12 at 2:04 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY - The foundation administering a fund set up to aid those affected by the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on Thursday agreed to an independent audit following criticism over its handling of the fund.
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 foundation that administers the fund. "We welcome the opportunity to shed light on any questions or concerns the public may have about the Disaster Relief Fund."
On Thursday, critics of how the fund has been handled delivered a letter to Gov. Mary Fallin asking that the fund's $10 million be taken 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 fund administrators have denied assistance requests by victims and treated them poorly. Thursday's announcement does not change her opinion that the funds should be removed from the foundation's control and distributed to victims.
Many people have been denied access to the fund over the years, said Gloria Chipman, whose husband, Robert Chipman, died in the April 19, 1995, bombing.
The Oklahoma City Community Foundation is a private organization that does private fundraising, said Alex Weintz, a Fallin spokesman.
"The governor does not have any authority to direct that organization to spend money in a particular way or to control its operations," Weintz said. "She does not serve as a board member or in any other capacity with the (foundation)."
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 when 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."
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.
Original Print Headline: Audit of OKC fund OK'd
Barbara Hoberock 405-528-2465
Gloria Chipman and a delegation of Murrah Federal Building survivors and representatives of their families deliver letters to Gov. Mary Fallin's office at the state Capitol on Thursday. Behind Chipman is Deloris Watson (left). The signees of the letters are asking the governor for help in disbursing the Disaster Relief Fund among the victims. JIM BECKEL / The Oklahoman
Gov Mary Fallin: "The governor does not have any authority to direct that organization to spend money in a particular way ...," a Fallin spokesman said.
Gloria Chipman (right) and Holly Sweet (left) and a delegation of Murrah Federal Building survivors and representatives of their families deliver letters to Gov. Mary Fallin's office at the state Capitol on Thursday. The signees of the letters are asking the governor to take action on the bombing survivor fund. JIM BECKEL / The Oklahoman