Records detail Murrah fund spending
BY ZIVA BRANSTETTER World Enterprise Editor
Sunday, November 11, 2012
11/11/12 at 9:39 AM
Read continuing coverage of issues involving the Oklahoma City bombing.
Read the 2005 memo allocating funds to bombing victims and other purposes.
View the most recent IRS form for the Oklahoma City Disaster Relief Fund
A foundation overseeing $10 million in funds for survivors of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing set aside $4.4 million in interest earnings for other purposes while allocating less to the victims' long-term medical needs, records show.
The nonprofit Oklahoma City Community Foundation spent $1.1 million to help 166 survivors of the bombing in the last three fiscal years, slightly more than it earned from investing the money during that time, records show. It spent a total of $60,000 on medical care for survivors and charged $487,000 to the fund during the last three years to pay for staff salaries, records show.
Foundation officials say they charged no administrative fees to the Oklahoma City Disaster Relief Fund during the first decade after the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. The staff salaries are for two case workers who provide direct services to bombing survivors, they say.
The Murrah fund has no paid staff and is overseen by a board of five volunteer trustees.
Steve Mason, a trustee of the foundation, said dividing the remaining donations among survivors of the April 19, 1995, tragedy - as some survivors have called for - is not what donors intended.
"The donor intent in 1995 was, 'Take care of these people. Take care of their need,' versus taking it and dividing it according to need," Mason said in an interview with the World and The Oklahoman.
The foundation is an umbrella organization established in 1969 that administers more than 1,200 nonprofit funds with combined assets of more than $632 million. Among those funds is the Oklahoma City Disaster Relief Fund.
The foundation has come under criticism from survivors of the bombing, which killed 168 people and injured hundreds more.
More than $40 million in donations poured in after the bombing, and the foundation received $14.6 million after the funds were consolidated. It has $10 million remaining in the fund.
The Red Cross of Central Oklahoma also has $2 million in bombing-related donations remaining and is actively assisting survivors, a spokeswoman said.
Several survivors told the World the foundation denied their requests to pay for medical care, education costs and other needs they believe are related to the bombing. Others said they had no clue that $10 million in donations remained while they have been struggling to pay their own medical costs.
Falesha Joyner, 40, of Oklahoma City was with her family in the Murrah Building when the bombing occurred. Three members of her family died, and her sister's leg was amputated. Joyner said she's had more surgeries than she can count.
"My right ear was blown off, and my right arm - the bones were crumbled like bread," she said.
Joyner said she was told by a case worker in 1998 "that the funds had been depleted and there were no more funds" available to help her.
She said she gets by on Social Security and that Medicaid covers some health-care costs. Joyner said she has had to fight for basic needs, including a hearing-aid implant "so I can hear my children's voices."
Joyner said the foundation never contacted her to let her know funds are still available to help with ongoing medical costs.
"I think what they should do with the remaining funds is split it amongst everyone that is affected by this and hurt," she said.
Nancy Anthony, executive director of the Oklahoma City Community Foundation, said the foundation did extensive outreach for three years after the bombing. Anthony said victims can still call and request help for needs related to the bombing.
Before a story was published in last Sunday's Tulsa World, the foundation's website did not list the bombing survivors' fund among a list of funds it oversees. The foundation recently posted information about the fund on its website and a statement asking those needing help to call its hotline for assistance.
The foundation has distributed $11 million from the fund for educational expenses, living expenses, medical care, counseling and other needs on behalf of 962 people since 1995, Anthony said. Claims that survivors have made to the World about difficulty obtaining help are either not accurate or are misunderstandings, she said.
"These people have had an incredible trauma. We try to be as considerate of their situation as we can," she said.
Joyner's sister, Daina Bradley, said she has post-traumatic stress disorder from the bombing and cannot afford counseling.
Rescue workers had to amputate Bradley's leg to free her from the rubble. She said she sought donations for a prosthetic leg from a private company and didn't know that the foundation still had funds available.
"A lot of people did not get the care and the things that they needed, and that money was supposed to be for them," said Bradley, who now lives out of state.
A group calling itself the Survivor Tree Committee - named after a tree that survived the blast - delivered a letter to Gov. Mary Fallin on Thursday, asking her to remove the survivors' funds from the foundation's control.
The foundation agreed Thursday to conduct an independent audit of the Oklahoma City Disaster Relief Fund, an announcement made jointly by the foundation, former Gov. Frank Keating and former Oklahoma City Mayor Ron Norick. Both were in office when the bombing occurred.
Fallin applauded the decision, saying in a statement that it would make 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," she said.
The letter says the group wants Washington, D.C., attorney Kenneth Feinberg to determine how the funds should be divided among those who were injured and the survivors of those killed. Feinberg has helped determine the amount of financial settlements for victims of the 9/11 attacks, the BP oil spill and the Virginia Tech campus shootings.
But Anthony and Mason said they oppose dividing the funds among the victims.
"These are very capable people who have been hurt," Mason said. "We've been charged to take care of them. ... I need to make sure we are a good fiduciary of these monies."
Anthony said IRS rules do not allow the foundation to give charitable donations to the survivors and that donors had received a tax deduction for them.
Jim Denny, 67, whose son, Brandon, and daughter, Rebecca, were severely injured in the bombing, said he is deeply appreciative of the way the bombing fund has been administered and would like to keep it operating in the same manner.
"They've really gone the extra mile," he said. "I think the Oklahoma City Community Foundation is five star, absolutely, top to bottom."
In 2005, Anthony and two other foundation employees recommended to the trustees that $4.4 million in interest earned on the fund be allocated to other purposes. The money set aside for education had been invested in bonds and earned far more than expected, she said.
Anthony said the decision was made to focus on educating the remaining group of survivors who qualified and paying for long-term medical needs of the injured. She said guidelines were placed on assistance with other types of expenses.
"After 10 years you have to say, 'How much more can we really do to help you recover?' '' she said.
The memo on the foundation's website detailing the $4.4 million earnings allocation is dated Feb. 5, 2005, and is addressed to the trustees of the Oklahoma City Disaster Relief Fund and the Oklahoma City Community Foundation. It is from Anthony, Director of Administration Carla Pickrell and Scholarships Administrator Anna-Faye Rose.
While Keating promised the fund would cover education costs for children of those killed in the bombing, "the utilization of education funds was less than anticipated," the memo states.
It notes that $5.2 million then remaining in the education fund portion of the disaster fund "should be more than sufficient" to fund education costs.
Julie Szabolcsi, whose father died in the bombing, said she was turned down by the foundation when she requested help for her tuition at the University of Oklahoma.
Szabolcsi said case workers questioned her about her father because Robert Chipman was her stepfather and had raised her since age 6. They also asked if she was having mental problems from the bombing and requested a school transcript, noting that her brother had made higher grades, she said.
"For future requestors, I question the validity of the approval process and the manner of their subsequent inquisitions," Szabolcsi said in an email to the World. "I do not recall having to provide my transcripts to the federal government in order to receive federal grant money, ... so why should I defend them to the OCCF?
"I would like a full IRS audit on the management of the funds, full disclosure of investments and appropriation of the earnings."
Anthony said while she could not address individual cases, 213 people are eligible for the education funds, and to date the fund has paid for 171 to attend one or more semesters of college or technical school. Costs paid have included tutoring, graduation announcements and ACT test fees, she said.
The foundation's 2005 memo states that ongoing costs for mental health care could be controlled "by defining the scope and type of services that will be provided." The memo notes that ongoing health problems for the survivors is "the future need most difficult to anticipate."
"Those needs ... will always be the first priority of any funds received or generated by the Oklahoma City Disaster Relief Fund," it states.
The memo states that due to higher-than-expected earnings on the fund, money earned on interest could be allocated to two related areas. Those involve sharing Oklahoma City's experience with professionals in fields such as emergency response and social work and sharing "the legacy of the bombing in our community" through an endowment for the Oklahoma City National Memorial.
It concludes by recommending the allocation of $10.3 million from the fund to education costs, medical and mental health care, case management, and assistance for survivors' living expenses. Of that, $3.6 million was earmarked for "long-term medical and mental health," the memo states.
An estimated 30 people will need lifelong medical care because of injuries suffered in the bombing, the foundation has said.
It then recommends that the remaining $4.4 million be allocated for "opportunities and legacies."
Anthony said those funds were earned on investing money set aside for education costs and can be used to pay for health-care or other survivor needs in the event of a shortfall.
The memo shows that the largest portion of the $4.4 million went to create a $2 million "community infrastructure fund."
Anthony said that fund will pay salaries for case workers in the future to assist bombing survivors should the community foundation no longer exist.
The memo recommends that $1.5 million from the interest earnings be set aside for an endowment to benefit the Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum.
Kari Watkins, executive director of the museum, said the museum has no control over the endowment fund. Watkins provided records showing that the memorial received a total of $456,688 since 2006 from interest.
Also, $500,000 was set aside from the $4.4 million to conduct long-term studies, which Anthony said have not been done. She said she hoped a study could examine the case management system versus direct payments to survivors of disasters.
The remaining $400,000 in interest earnings was set aside to contribute to disaster funds in other communities, the memo states.
Anthony said the foundation donated $10,000 each to funds in Alabama and Joplin, Mo., following massive tornadoes there. She indicated that funds could also be donated to victims of superstorm Sandy.
Anthony said people in other communities donated to help Oklahoma City recover, "so we did not think it was inappropriate."
Joyner and other survivors said they did not support spending interest earned from the donations on other purposes.
"I understand (there are) other disasters, but why not help us?" Joyner asked. "How could you give somebody else the money and help somebody else out? They just left us stranded."
Randy Ellis of The Oklahoman contributed to this story.
About the Oklahoma City Community Foundation
The Oklahoma City Community Foundation is an umbrella organization established in 1969 that administers more than 1,200 nonprofit funds with combined assets of more than $632 million. Among those funds is the Oklahoma City Disaster Relief Fund.
The disaster fund itself has no paid staff and is overseen by five volunteer trustees: Nancy Coats, William O. Johnstone, John Belt, Martha King and Susan Evans.
The foundation's most recent report to the IRS report states that the overall foundation has five officers and employees who are paid a combined salary of $854,000.
The report lists Carla Pickrell, paid $306,739, as assistant secretary and director of administration. Executive Director Nancy Anthony is paid $232,217 and is the foundation's assistant secretary and executive director, the report states.
Breakdown of disaster fund spending
||Year-end fund balance
||Investment income fees charged
||Amount spent to assist victims
Source: Oklahoma City Disaster Relief Fund Inc. IRS forms 2008-2010
Spending on victims by assistance type
(Fiscal years 2008-2010)
|Assistance type||3-year total|
|Housing, food, clothing||$77,148|
Source: Oklahoma City Disaster Relief Fund Inc. IRS forms 2008-2010
Original Print Headline: Murrah fund spending eyed
Ziva Branstetter 918-581-8306
Falesha Joyner was severely injured in the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. JIM BECKEL / The Oklahoman
Falesha Joyner (left) and one of her aunts, Rosie B. Bradley-Wilson, hold a painting of their three family members who died in the Oklahoma City bombing. The blast ripped away part of Joyner’s face, and she lost her right ear. JIM BECKEL / The Oklahoman