Spending Grant Money Legally

Perhaps some state officials misunderstood the purpose of $126.3 million in federal “stimulus” money granted to West Virginia in 2010. It was supposed to build our economy and help create jobs. Sometimes it seems as if a few state government officials thought the huge pile of cash was supposed to promote corruption, waste and mismanagement.

In view of how millions of dollars in stimulus money was spent, we assume you will pardon our sarcasm.

First came “Routergate,” in which state officials spent as much as $15 million buying computer network equipment far more elaborate — and expensive — than was needed.

Next was “Towergate,” with a couple of officials breaking state purchasing laws by paying a company $10 million to construct 17 emergency communications towers.

Now we have a new one: “Broadbandgate.”

It was revealed last week that state officials have had to dig into the state treasurer’s unclaimed property account to cover at least part of a $4.7 million payment to the federal government. The money, part of the 2010 stimulus initiative, has to be repaid because a federal audit determined some of the money paid to Frontier Communications for expansion of broadband access was for items not covered by the federal grant.

Both Frontier and state officials insist the grant rules were followed. Uncle Sam, who makes the rules, disagrees.

Don’t forget federal complaints — justified — in an entirely different program, one intended to help victims of 2016 floods in West Virginia. State legislators already are investigating complaints the program moved too slowly and, in some situations, was used illegally.

How is it that our state cannot seem to handle big federal grants without making enormous, costly mistakes and, again, seeing corruption rear its ugly but well-known face?

Unless answers to that question and solutions to the problem(s) are found, the federal government at some point may decide it simply isn’t safe to send money to the Mountain State.


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