Safe Passage, a domestic violence aid agency that abruptly closed this week, was in the midst of an audit by state and federal inspectors, a state official told The Herald.
Board members said Thursday they are taking steps to reorganize and hope to re-open with core services for victims of abuse and sexual assault.
An audit turned up poor record-keeping practices but found no evidence of misuse, said administrator Burke Fitzpatrick of the S.C. Department of Public Safety.
Once an official report is completed - possibly within two weeks - the agency could regain access to grant money suspended during the inquiry, Fitzpatrick said.
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"We're working on trying to get those funds released right now," Fitzpatrick said. "It's our intention to do everything we can to release those dollars. We understand the severe financial hardship."
In a statement Thursday, the board said it would re-evaluate staff leadership roles.
Late Thursday, the board decided to release longtime director Peggy Payne, according to board member Judy Longshaw.
Before the board's decision, Payne said she appreciated her time with Safe Passage.
"I've put my whole life into that program," Payne said. "We've come a long, long way since 1997."
Kevin Brackett, 16th Circuit solicitor, said he's optimistic the agency can recover.
"This is a committed group of people who are working hard to get Safe Passage back on its feet," Brackett said. "There's still a lot of work to be done. The resolution of this inquiry hopefully is going to get the money flowing again."
Fitzpatrick said the state Department of Public Safety launched an inquiry earlier this year in response to an allegation of financial wrongdoing. He declined to provide specifics on the complaint.
Because federal money was involved, state inspectors called in the federal Office of Inspector General. Initial findings indicate poor management practices, Fitzpatrick said, but "nothing that probably can't be corrected."
During the audit, officials froze previously awarded state and federal grants totaling $211,517, Fitzpatrick said. The money could be released pending the final report, Fitzpatrick said.
"Although it may be very painful for the agency, often it brings out improvements in the way they do business," Fitzpatrick said. "It's a healthy process."
Board to refocus
In a statement, Safe Passage board members said the audit turned up a lack of tight control on funds, an overambitious program agenda and too few staffers to handle the workload.
The board is working on creating stronger policies and restructuring its staff.
South Carolina has one of the highest domestic violence rates in the country, with more than 35,000 reported assaults each year.
Safe Passage offers an emergency shelter, counseling programs and a 24-hour crisis hotline for victims of domestic violence, sexual trauma and child abuse.
United Way of York County officials said they would step in to offer help with critical needs. Residents can call the county's social services hotline at 2-1-1 for guidance.