DOJ IG: Head of Domestic Violence Group Paid 12 Times…In One Day

Barbara Hollingsworth
March 14, 2014

( – Nearly a third of the half million dollars in federal grant money awarded to a non-profit group established to combat domestic and sexual violence against Native American women was spent inappropriately, including 12 paychecks made out to its former executive director on just one day in 2012, according to the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General.
Our Sister’s Keeper Coaliition (OSKC) executive director Diane Millich introduced Vice President Joe Biden at the March 7, 2013 signing ceremony of the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. She was the only advocate to speak at the Interior Department event, where President Obama praised her for her courage.
However, in 2012 the Obama administration cut off funding to the Durango, Colorado-based group Millich founded in 2005, which had received a total of $570,000 in federal grants from DOJ’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) since 2007.
The grants were awarded to increase “awareness of domestic violence and sexual assault against American Indian and Alaska Native women,” and to provide victims “access to essential services” on the Southern Ute Indian Tribe reservation and in nearby La Plata County, Co.
OSKC closed in September 2013 after losing its government funding.
The inspector general report said that $201,647 of its expenditures were classified as “questioned costs” by federal auditors, either because they were undocumented, considered excessive, or not allowed under the terms of the OVW grant. (See DOJ IG audit Our Sisters Keeper.pdf)
Some of those “questioned costs” included multiple paychecks made out to Millich, a former victim of domestic violence, who resigned for health reasons in 2012.
“According to OSKC’s general ledger, the former director received 12 paychecks on February 8, 2012. Previous to that date, the former director received a paycheck on October 6, 2011; the former director also received a paycheck on February 10, 2012,” the audit report stated.
“OSKC stated the 12 paychecks occurred due to a delay in drawing down funds caused by OVW’s budget process. At the time that the former director received 12 paychecks, only 8 pay periods had passed.”
Although OSKC employees were paid twice a month, with 24 pay periods per year, Millich collected 30 paychecks in 2011, the IG reported. Auditors discovered “27 out of 30 biweekly paychecks that the former director signed to herself varying from $958 to $2,192.”
Even though OSKC worked with an accounting firm, several drawdowns of grant funds did not match OSKC’s books, the audit report noted. For example, “One paycheck of $1,956 dated February 23, 2011, was recorded in the general ledger as a $50 victim assistance payment to a different individual on May 25, 2010.”
Auditors also found duplicate check numbers on pay stubs and timesheets that did not match, the IG reported.
In addition to questionable personnel costs, the IG’s office found “328 direct cost transactions totaling $92,914 [that] were not adequately supported,” and “345 direct cost transactions totaling $23,046 [that] were not allowable” under the terms of the grant, including what auditors said were “indicators of personal use” of OVW grant funds.
“Unallowable transactions also included victim assistance payments that did not identity a domestic violence or sexual assault victim nexus, or:
• Occurred during unbudgeted periods;
• Were made to employees, board members, and their families;
• Purchased gifts for inmates and paid for travel to visit an out-of-state inmate;
• Paid for lodging at a ski lodge;
• Were made to multiple members of the same family on the same day; and
• Were made to an individual who stated they were not eligible for government assistance because they were not a U.S. citizen.”
OSKC was charged for a $520 purchase at Axxis Audio of Durango, $292.50 at Serious Texas BBQ, $120 at Sky Ute Casino Lodging, $41.26 at Carver Brewing Co., and $53.66 at Wolf Creek Ski Lodge.
Checks “identified in the general ledger as assistance to individuals” were made out to “Home Depot, LaQuinta Inn, Basin Coop, Shell Oil, Mesa Market, JC Penney, Giant, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Sonic, McDonald’s, Starbucks, United Airlines, and a car wash,” the report stated.
Other dubious expenses flagged by auditors included a trip the former director and a relative made to Golden, Co. on a “holiday weekend in July 2010.” Their airline tickets, hotel bill, and a rental car were all charged to OSKC, although “documentation did not indicate the purpose for the travel.”
Auditors also reported that the group “frequently had related parties in leadership positions. OSKC’s acting director and former director were sisters. The board Treasurer’s daughter was also a board member, and another board member was the former director’s ex-husband.”
Besides OSKC’s “inadequate documented policies,” “inadequate managerial oversight,” and the “use of cash” for many expenditures, the report stated that the group “co-mingled OVW grant funds with funding from other sources and did not maintain separate accounting records for the grant” as required. Nor could they “provide documentation of budget monitoring activities.”
“OSKC board leadership stated they are not involved in financial functions, other than what they are shown by the director at board meetings,” the IG report said. “The board’s Treasurer also stated a lack of understanding of budgets or accounting.”
After spending over a half million dollars, the “goals and objectives of the grant were not consistently met, and OSKC was unable to adequately support their claims of achievement,” the inspector general concluded.