Luzerne County Controller Walter Griffith says the Luzerne County Diversity Commission hasn‚??t been conducting its financial affairs properly, but a commission member says clear instructions on exactly what was required of the group were never provided.
Griffith said the commission, which was created as a diversity task force by former county commissioners Todd Vonderheid and Greg Skrepenak, received $10,000 checks from the county in 2008 and 2009, and nearly $17,000 of it remains unused in an account of the Luzerne Foundation.
But a recent move to put $10,000 towards a new diversity initiative led Griffith to cry foul when he learned it was done without a public vote. He said he learned commission members voted on the issue using the Internet.
‚??You can‚??t disperse $10,000 of taxpayer money without a public meeting with votes made in public,‚?Ě Griffith said.
He said he began an audit based on complaints from community activist Angel Jirau and inquiries from county Councilwoman Linda McClosky Houck. ‚??Angel Jirau has been screaming for years that these people don‚??t do anything for diversity,‚?Ě he said.
But, he said, he has not received all necessary records, adding that the county funds were deposited into a Misericordia University (formerly College Misericordia) account when commission member Linda Trompetter worked there. The funds had since been transferred to the Luzerne Foundation.
‚??Nobody has bank statements, nobody knows anything. So we don‚??t know how much of our $10,000 was going toward county diversity and how much was going toward College Misericordia diversity,‚?Ě he said. ‚??They don‚??t have minutes. It‚??s very loose the way the commission is run.‚?Ě
He also said $10,000 was transferred from the Luzerne Foundation to the Northeastern Pennsylvania Diversity Education Consortium and then transferred back to the Luzerne Foundation after he made an inquiry. He said the commission should have opened its own bank account.
Trompetter says Griffith is wrong and way off base.
‚??It‚??s not true that nobody has bank statements. Misericordia and the Luzerne Foundation have records of everything,‚?Ě Trompetter said. And, she added, a book of meeting minutes was turned over to Griffith‚??s office.
Trompetter said that when the diversity task force was formed, ‚??there were no procedures. ‚?Ľ You can‚??t expect people who were volunteers to do things we were never instructed to do.‚?Ě
She said the board might consult with a county solicitor to inquire about proper procedures.
Trompetter said she believes Jirau ‚??has a bone to pick‚?Ě with the commission because before his resignation years ago, he was going to be asked to leave.
‚??He was a lone ranger. He would go off on his own and do things without coordinating with the commission,‚?Ě she said, offering an example of meeting with the Wilkes-Barre police chief on his own when the commission was planning to do so.
Jirau said he went to the police chief because the commission was having problems arranging a meeting. He said he resigned because he didn‚??t feel he was being given access to information on the commission‚??s past work for the Latino community.
Trompetter said the commission has used very little of the original $20,000 in funding because members had not found ‚??projects that were worthy enough.‚?Ě
But a new diversity leadership program at Luzerne County Community College in which all high schools in Luzerne County will participate is being planned for this coming school year, Trompetter said.