11/16/05 — Your tax money: Much of it goes into ‘rat holes’

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Your tax money: Much of it goes into ‘rat holes’

It happens all too often — almost daily, it seems.

News stories tell of individuals in responsible positions in public agencies misappropriating hundreds of thousands, even millions, of dollars. Often the money goes into the pockets of relatives or friends — or even their own pockets.

How does it happen? Boards and authorities or commissions are charged with overseeing such agencies. Presumably, there must be at least annual audits.

And what happens when the misconduct is discovered? Sometimes — infrequently — someone gets prison time. That happened in the case of former Congressman Frank Ballance who spread hundreds of thousands of state tax money around among relatives and political supporters.

But look at a more recent case. The housing authority at Winston-Salem doled out $2.2 million to subsidize apartments and other real estate projects. According to The Associated Press, $1 million went to run four apartments. The authority spent another $1.22 million to acquire and renovate a downtown building for use as its central office.

None of the facilities qualified for such funding.

The housing authority board decided it needed to let its executive director go. They told him either to retire or be fired.

But the director was given a “golden parachute.” The authority agreed to pay him $100,000 as a “settlement.”

So add that $100,000 to the $2.2 million rip-off of taxpayers’ money.

And such as this goes on all the time. Even as this is being written — or read — millions of your hard-earned tax dollars are being misappropriated by incompetent or deliberately dishonest people in positions of public trust.

Slaps on the wrist or severance bonuses do nothing to discourage the problem. Certainly in instances where laws have been violated, jail time would be more appropriate.

Published in Editorials on November 16, 2005 10:11 AM