Finance chairman questions director of disaster relief organization about spending practices – West Virginia MetroNews

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The Senate Finance chairman grilled the director of West Virginia Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster about its financial practices.
The organization is involved with disaster relief in West Virginia, drawing down public dollars to support those efforts. VOAD was among the organizations leading relief efforts from West Virginia’s devastating 2016 flood, along with the National Guard.
VOAD’s former finance and operations manager, Benjamin Cisco, was charged last spring with several counts of fraud and money laundering. He has a sentencing hearing at 11 a.m. Thursday before U.S. District Judge Irene Berger.
The Kanawha County Commission, last month, voted to rescind $50,000 that had been going to VOAD over discrepancies regarding how the money would be used.
During legislative interim meetings on Sunday, Senate Finance Chairman Eric Tarr, R-Putnam, posed a series of questions to Jenny Gannaway, the executive director of West Virginia VOAD.
Tarr asked a range of questions during the meeting of the Joint Legislative Committee on Flooding, including queries about allegations that VOAD employees had taken items meant for flood relief into their own homes and the hiring of relatives.
“I’m sure you’re aware of videos and pictures that have come out that have questioned some of the behaviors that you, personally, have had through VOAD,” Tarr began.
“Yes,” Gannaway responded.
“I’ve got several questions related to that,” Tarr continued, “that I want you to address.
Gannaway generally denied any wrongdoing.
Gannaway did acknowledge, under questioning by Tarr, that she had hired several family members to work for VOAD.
“Do you hire for VOAD? Do you do hiring?” Tarr asked.
Gannaway responded that the organization has a human resources adviser that screens potential employees. “And, yes, I do work with her to hire.”
“Did you hire your brother?” Tarr asked.
“Yes,” Gannaway said.
“Did you hire your nephew?”
“No, not my nephew,” she said.
“Did you hire your great niece?”
“Did you hire your great nephew-in-law?”
“Did you hire a relative or family member of your brother’s wife?”
“And did those hires require board approval?” Tarr asked.
“No, they did not,” Gannaway replied. “And I would like to say that it was during the covid time, and it was very hard for us to get employees — and it wasn’t just my family. We hired employees of several of our other employees. We hired their family members also.
“So it was during the covid years and it was hard to find people that wanted to come out and work, and looking back on that, that’s probably something I would never do again. But at that time when we had to get things done, we felt like that would be a way we could do it. And I did not directly supervise anyone that was related to me.”
Tarr also asked about whether Gannaway took as her own some items that had been donated to VOAD to help with relief efforts.
Gannaway said she made donations in exchange for the materials.
“We had permission to take donations for items that we could not give out to flood survivors. And I gave large donations for anything that I took that I may have given to someone,” she said.
“What’s a large donation?” Tarr asked.
“I think the total is like $2,600 that I gave and then I donated an $800 generator to the organization. So anything that I have done I made a donation for that,” Gannaway said.
“Did any of those items go to your house in Matewan?”
“No,” Gannaway said, “they did not go to my house in Matewan.”
“None of the items that were mentioned — not a patio furniture set, not a grill, not a refrigerator, not a toilet?”
“Did they go to any of your other homes?”
“I did take to my house in Roanoke,” she said. “I do not have those items now. I donated those to someone. But I did make a donation for those, but I ended up donating those to someone.”
“Did you donate them after or before it was brought to public that the items were brought to your house?” Tarr asked.
“Before,” Gannaway said. “They were donated a year and a half ago to someone.”

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