Bombing survivor group: Audit should include denied requests
BY ZIVA BRANSTETTER World Enterprise Editor
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
11/14/12 at 4:25 PM
Continuing coverage: View past stories on the disaster relief fund and the Oklahoma City bombing.
A group representing survivors of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing has sent a letter to Gov. Mary Fallin and other officials asking that an audit of donations review how many requests for help were denied.
The letter, signed by three women who have formed the “Survivor Tree Committee,” was sent Wednesday to Fallin, former Gov. Frank Keating and former Oklahoma City Mayor Ron Norick. Keating and Norick were in office when the Murrah Federal Building was bombed April 19, 1995, killing 168 people and injuring hundreds.
The nonprofit Oklahoma City Community Foundation oversees a fund containing about $10 million remaining from funds donated after the bombing and interest earned on the invested funds.
“The audit should include all the requests for assistance since the fund was established,” states the letter from the Survivor Tree Committee. “The documentation must include phone conversations, letters of request, letters of assistance, and all denial correspondence be it by phone or written. This form of correspondence needs to include what was paid or how much was denied and for what reason.”
The letter is signed by Deloris Watson, Gloria Chipman and Holly Sweet.
Watson’s grandson, P.J. Allen, was seriously injured in the building’s daycare center. Chipman’s husband was killed in the bombing. Sweet, of Tulsa, said she donated funds after the bombing, when an estimated $40 million in donations were contributed.
Some survivors have told the Tulsa World the foundation has denied requests for assistance with medical expenses, educational costs and other needs.
The foundation - an umbrella organization overseeing more than 1,200 funds - has denied the claims, saying they are either inaccurate or are misunderstandings.
It has donated $20,000 in earnings from the bombing relief fund to disaster funds following tornadoes in Joplin and Alabama. Those funds are among more than $4 million the foundation set aside for other purposes, records show.
The survivors’ group has asked that the needs of all survivors be studied and remaining funds be distributed among them.
Following stories in the World regarding the survivors’ concerns, the foundation announced the fund would be audited. The foundation’s news release said it would “engage an independent auditor in Oklahoma City to conduct the audit with the consultation of Governor Keating and Mayor Norick.”
Keating, Fallin and Norick have praised the foundation's work while saying the audit would provide survivors confidence the funds are being administered well.
The Survivor Tree Committee’s letter, dated Nov. 14, states: “It has been announced in the press that OCCF intends to begin an audit to clear themselves of allegations; they denied assistance to survivors of the bombing. We did not call for an audit, we requested that Kenneth Feinberg be called to do a study, audit, review of files, conduct town hall meetings, and distribute the monies.”
The letter states that auditors should have full access to medical files and other records to trace how requests for assistance were handled since the fund was established in 1995. Foundation officials have said they have no database of survivors, no application form for funds and cases are handled individually by case managers.
Read the rest of the story in Thursday's Tulsa World.
In this April 12 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