The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

December 2, 2012

United Way board votes to cut funds to RSVP

— The United Way of Athens has suspended future funding for the Retired & Senior Volunteer Program in Athens, citing liability concerns found in the agency’s audited statements and the need for more oversight in the agency’s operation, programs and services.

The United Way, which has been funding RSVP since at least 1990, is currently providing funding for two specific programs — reading tutors for city and county schools and free tax-preparation services.

Kaye McFarlen, executive director of the local United Way, declined to specify at this time the problems prompting the suspension.

“There are concerns about possible errors of facts and figures and there are liabilities on the books, and we want to make sure there is a business plan to cover those liabilities.”

The United Way board of directors voted unanimously Wednesday to suspend future funding until the RSVP board “can supply information and documentation of the concerns,” McFarlen said. United Way is just one of RSVP’s funding sources.

“We believe — as good stewards of our donor’s money and their trust — we must take this action,” McFarlen said. “This will also allow RSVP agency to provide us information and make any necessary adjustments.”

RSVP board members were notified of the suspension by letter this week.

“We want to give them some time to respond,” McFarlen said. “We see a problem and we’ve shared that with the RSVP board. We want them to address the problem and tell us when the problem is resolved.”

RSVP Executive Director Betty Ruth, who has held the position since 1978, could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon and the RSVP office at 409 W. Washington St. in Athens was closed.

The RSVP board, which meets quarterly, requires the agency to hire professional auditing services and its executive director receives a report, according to RSVP board treasurer Jimmy Gill. However, Gill said Friday the board had not received an audit report this past fiscal year and that Ruth had told the board the report was not ready. 

Although the United Way board did not give the RSVP board a deadline, McFarlen said, “We want them to address the problems quickly, certainly by after the first of the year.”

The suspension may be lifted, she said,  “once the evidentiary proof is provided by the RSVP board to United Way in regards to our expressed concerns. Until that time we will continue the suspension of funds for the two requested programs.”

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