State audit alleges physical threats at anti-domestic violence group

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | Apr 25, 2016 12:11 PM

(Harrisburg) -- A state audit alleges senior staff at a nonprofit that works to end domestic violence mishandled money and physically threatened employees.

The state Department of Human Services says some employees at the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence allege they had objects thrown at them, doors slammed, and at one point, a senior staff member lunged at a co-worker.

The leader of the organization - Peg Dierkers - says the audit doesn't provide evidence though.

When WITF asked her directly whether the allegations were true, she declined to answer.

"What I will tell you is that we have our share of unhappy people. We have less than what most organizations have becuase we work very hard at creating a participatory and collaborative work environment," says Dierkers.

"Perhaps the auditors ran across one of the employees who weren't satisfied," she adds. "They don't really quantify it in the report, they're somewhat cryptic about it."

The Bureau of Financial oversight at DHS says it did not start this audit in pursuit of information about the work environment at PCADV, but in interviews with current and former staff, employees have reportedly shared the allegations. The audit says investigators did not attempt to substantiate the information because it wasn't the focus of the audit. But, the report describes the information as "consistent and concerning."

The audit also alleges about $680,000 in spending didn't exactly match up with technical requirements.

That includes nearly $3,000 spent on baseball tickets and almost $86,000 on advertising.

Dierkers says the baseball tickets were for a Father's Day event to reach out to men, and the advertising was actually public service announcements in newspapers that were required by a grant.

She also points out that auditors didn't find any waste, fraud or abuse in its study of the about $50 million administered during the audit period.

Dierkers says the coalition is making some internal changes, but argues the auditors didn't understand its processes.

Dierkers says the audit started in July 2015, and field auditors spent nearly two months at the offices for the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

She adds that the group submitted data to auditors and also added responses in an extensive back and forth with the auditors.

Dierkers adds a complaint from someone at the group initiated the audit by the state Department of Human Services.

The nonprofit receives nearly all of its funding from the government.

The state Department of Human Services says it's committed to making sure money is spent appropriately.

In a statement released Monday afternoon, it says "The department takes this situation, and all others like it, very seriously. Ensuring the public trusts that taxpayer resources are spent in the most appropriate and efficient way is of the utmost importance.

At this time, the department is reviewing the audit's findings and recommendations and determining the most appropriate path forward. Throughout the duration of our review, we will continue to allow funds to flow to the sub grantees at the local level who provide services and support to domestic violence victims."

*This story has been edited for clarification*

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