...to encourage citizens to work in partnership with appropriate State agencies so that the State's rivers and streams: (a) Are safe for swimming, fishing and other forms of recreation; (b) can support appropriate public and commercial purposes; and (c) can provide habitat for plant and animal life.
Within the Division of Environmental Protection's Office of Abandoned Mine Lands, a Stream Restoration Group Manager and a Program Coordinator work part-time and full-time, respectively, for the Stream Partners Program, with the Manager supervising the Coordinator. Both positions are fully funded through a federal grant.
The Division of Natural Resources is responsible for the Stream Partners Program Fund. General Revenue in the amount of $100,000 has been appropriated to this Fund annually, which is used exclusively to provide grants to community-based organizations which are dedicated "to restore, protect and utilize West Virginia's rivers and streams for public health, recreation, commercial and habitat uses." The maximum amount of each grant awarded is $5,000. Each grant that is awarded should be matched by the grantee with cash or in-kind contributions of at least 20% of the grant. The grant period, or "grant year," is one year from September 1 of the application year to August 31 of the following year.
In order to be eligible for grants from the Stream Partners Program, the community-based
organization must submit an application to the Program. A completed application includes the
(a) Identify the stream or streams to be restored, protected, utilized or enhanced;
(b) Identify the representatives of groups applying for funds and the financially responsible entity to receive funds, all from the geographic area immediately surrounding the stream or streams. These identified individuals shall represent the general public, industry, environmental groups, sportsmen, forestry, agriculture, local government, tourism, recreation and affected land owners, all located in the geographic area immediately surrounding the stream or streams;
(c) Demonstrate an ability to achieve within the grant year a specific improvement project that enhances the identified stream or streams; and
(d) Evidence a commitment to educate the citizens in the area of the identified stream or streams about the benefits of restoring, protecting, and enhancing the stream or streams in a responsible manner.
ISSUE AREA 1: The Stream Partners Program has a
Positive Impact on the Citizens of West
Since the inception of the Stream Partners Program (SPP) in 1996, numerous communities throughout the State have benefitted from the grant money that the SPP distributes. Watershed associations have used the Stream Partners' grants to enhance their respective streams. Some of the watershed associations are able to take the $1,000 to $5,000 SPP grants and use them as "seed money" to acquire grants from other organizations and to obtain in-kind contributions. Local businesses and citizens have donated time, equipment, and materials to help complete watershed projects throughout the State. These projects have increased the recreational value of streams and rivers, and provided safer conditions for humans as well as plant and aquatic life. The watershed associations provide outreach to their respective communities, which helps educate citizens about the streams in their areas. In essence, the SPP grants give watershed associations momentum and credibility within the communities that they represent.
According to the Stream Partners Legislative findings and purpose section, West Virginia Code, §20-13-2,
It is the purpose of the Legislature, therefore, to establish a program to encourage citizens to work in partnership with appropriate state agencies so that the state's rivers and streams: (a) Are safe for swimming, fishing and other forms of recreation; (b) can support appropriate public and commercial purposes; and (c) can provide habitat for plant and animal life.
a community-based organization comprised of local citizens, industry, environmental groups, sportsmen, local government, and landowners that are interested in improving the quality of life in and around their stream and watershed.
Fish and wildlife habitat creation and enhancement;
Stream bank stabilization and erosion and sediment control;
Education and outreach on the importance of restoring, protecting, and enhancing streams and watersheds;
Clean-up projects that remove debris and litter from stream banks, in conjunction with a sustainable watershed improvement project;
Water quality monitoring and water quality improvements;
Establishment of trails and trail bridges;
Study to classify as many tributaries in a watershed to identify erosion; and
Table 1 offers a breakdown of the number of projects that Stream Partners has funded and the amount of grant money that Stream Partners has disbursed from 1996 to 1999.
|Funding Year||# of Applications||# of Projects Funded||Money Disbursed|
The decrease in applications from 66 in 1996 to 31 in 1997 can be attributed to the
fact that a mass mailing was done in 1996 to promote the Program with the hopes the
recipients would pass the information along to those organizations who fit the criteria.
Many applicants in 1996 did not meet the criteria to become a Stream Partner.
Several of the applicants from 1996 realized that they were not eligible and did not
apply again in the future.
Nonetheless, the SPP has seen a growth in the number of projects that received funding and the Program Coordinator has been instrumental in this growth through public relation efforts which includes visiting watershed associations statewide. In addition, the SPP created a new and innovative brochure that includes a grant application which was used for the first time during the1999 grant year.
The Importance of In-kind and Other Grant Contributions
As a result of the Stream Partners Program, the watershed associations have been able to acquire almost $368,500 through in-kind and other grant contributions in grant years 1996 and 1997, which exceeds the funding amounts that Stream Partners distributed for those same two years. The in-kind contributions for grant year 1998 have not yet been reported to the SPP. The in-kind contributions, which must be at least 20% of the amount of the SPP grant, include: 1) time donated by volunteers; and 2) donations of equipment, materials and fuel. The SPP only requires that in-kind contributions be reported along with the final report and does not require reporting of grant amounts that watershed associations have received from other sources. Therefore, the $368,500 reflects the in-kind contributions and any other grants that the watershed associations may have voluntarily reported. Table 2 illustrates the comparison between grant money disbursed and in-kind contributions.
|Funding Year||Money Disbursed||In-kind Contributions|
|Group Name||Type of Project||Grant Amoun t||Funding Year|
|White Day Creek Watershed Association||Rail to trail bridge and hiking trail improvement||$5,000||1997|
|Dunkard Creek Watershed Association||Trout stocking and outreach||$5,000||1996|
|Dunkard Creek Watershed Association||A study to classify tributaries to identify erosion||$5,000||1997|
|Davis Creek Watershed Association||Trash clean-up, fish habitat/stream bed restoration||$5,000||1996|
|Davis Creek Watershed Association||Bank stabilization and additional stream bed restoration||$5,000||1998|
After viewing these projects, it is quite evident that the White Day Creek Watershed
Association has adhered to the project proposal and has benefitted from the Stream Partners
Program. An important benefit of the Stream Partners Program is the ability for watershed
associations to use the SPP grants as "seed money" for other grants. The White Day Creek
Watershed Association has been successful to this end. According to a representative of White Day
Creek, "Stream Partners has been instrumental in White Day Creek receiving other grants from
Trout Unlimited and Canaan Valley Institute. Stream Partners has had a positive impact on White
Day Creek Association." The Canaan Valley Institute grant totaled $1,500 and the Trout Unlimited
grant $500. In addition, the White Day Creek Watershed Association has cultivated relationships
with organizations such as the Boy Scouts and with students from West Virginia University and
Fairmont State. In summary, the $5,000 Stream Partners grant was worth an estimated $8,685
in improvements to the State of West Virginia.
Dunkard Creek Watershed Association
The Legislative Auditor evaluated the Dunkard Creek Watershed Association's (DCWA) 1996 and 1997 projects. An auditor met with the president of DCWA at the Mason-Dixon Historical Park, which is located outside of Morgantown and is the headquarters of the Dunkard Creek Watershed Association. The 1996 grant application lists a section for the watershed association to describe at least one anticipated project to be completed by the end of the grant year. DCWA's application does not commit to a specific project. The proposal states,
...The feasibility of many projects is not ensured at this time. However, during our strategic planning process, our group may decide to create a public access site for small boat launching, and to develop a short (5 miles +/-) float course along the creek...An alternative project might be to stabilize a section of failing streambank.
In lieu of the stream access site, the Dunkard Creek Watershed Association received permission from the Stream Partners Program to spend part of the grant money for stocking trout in Dunkard Creek. Due to the alteration, all of the 1996 grant money had not been used as of April '99. Approximately $2,429 was spent on outreach, meeting supplies, trout stocking supplies, and fund raising. The trout cost $2,000, leaving $571 of the $5,000 unexpended as of April 1999. In addition, volunteers performed approximately 1500 hours of fund raising for outreach. The 1500 volunteer hours were estimated to be worth $7,500 of in-kind services, which more than matches the required 20% of the $5,000 Stream Partners grant. For the $5,000 1996 Stream Partners grant, the State received $12,500 worth of benefit.
Dunkard Creek's 1997 project, which consisted of a study to classify tributaries to identify erosion, has been finalized. The study was conducted by a graduate student at West Virginia University. As stated in DCWA's final report, a description of the study is as follows:
Classified 70 tributaries in the watershed as to amount of erosion. Ranked sites, using criteria, as to immediacy of need to control. Conducted 97 site visits. Found approximate volume of material being washed downstream. Found landowners 100% willing to cooperate. At each site visit, took pictures, bank measurements, water samples, and notes on water conditions, stream bed deposits, stream bank conditions, land uses, and litter. Completed a booklet, over 200 pages, that contained all this information and may be used as a reference for further research.
The Dunkard Creek Watershed Association would have had a hard time surviving without the Stream Partners Program. There would not have been adequate funding without the Program. The Stream Partners Program was a springboard for scientific research. There is good flexibility and accessability with the Stream Partners and they have had a wide and positive impact.The Stream Partners Program has helped DCWA attract interest throughout the community. For example, the trout stockings have been successful in increasing public awareness about Dunkard Creek and its recreational value. In addition, public awareness about the environment has been increased. DCWA's success and determination has enabled it to develop partnerships with other agencies and individuals. These partnerships have allowed DCWA to acquire additional knowledge about aquatic life, scientific matters, and Dunkard Creek in general. The partners include the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, West Virginia University, private consultants, and volunteers.
Using donated boulders, trucking, equipment, straw, fuel and labor, the Association was able to build v-dams and rocky structures which provide needed cover for fish and channel current to strip sediment from the rocky bottom of the stream. The exposed rocky bottom of the stream, in turn, provides habitat for the macro-invertebrates that fish eat. The Association used grant money to pay for items which could not be donated, such as the backhoe operator's time, additional fuel, and outreach activities. A project summary report submitted to Stream Partners indicated that approximately $2,000 had not been spent as of November 1997. However, since that time the money has been spent on completion of the stream habitat restoration work.
The site visit evidences adherence to the 1996 project proposal and proper use of the grant. Evidence of aquatic life and community pride abounds. Countless fish spawning sites were observed, as were several schools of minnows and broods of other fish, mature fish, ducks, a snapping turtle, insect larvae attached to the bottoms of submerged rocks and fingernail clams, all providing ample evidence of aquatic life. Appendix A offers some select photographs from the fieldwork. While visiting the site, several area residents stopped in their cars and on foot to speak with the Association providing the tour. Invariably, the stream was the initial topic of conversation as the car windows retracted. These residents, including the Association member offering the tour, exuded pride and ownership of the stream. A photo in Appendix A shows flowers planted at the stream's edge by residents taking pride in the stream that was once seen as a depository for oil cans and chicken bones.
The businesses and individuals that provided these in-kind contributions, as well as the Stream Partners Program, have not only given an economic boost to the Davis Creek Watershed Association, but also helped provide some recognition for the Davis Creek community. For example, articles about the Davis Creek Watershed Association have appeared in the Spring 1999 edition of West Virginia Executive, several Charleston newspaper articles, and a Walker Machinery publication (Walker Machinery donated use of a brand new backhoe to the project).
While visiting the 1996 Davis Creek project site, the Legislative Auditor was informed by a Davis Creek representative that the 1998 project was completed in October of 1998 and could be examined as well. The 1998 project included completing another section of the stream habitat restoration work that was started in 1996, including the placement of small to medium boulders, construction of "V" dams, and outreach. In addition, sections of stream bank were stabilized by the placement of boulders. Evidence of the success of the 1998 project was just as abundant as that of the 1996 project. The Stream Partners grant has been used in accordance with the Association's proposal. Final reports for the 1998 grant year are not to be submitted until September 30, 1999.
SPP Administration Staff Funding
The Stream Partners Program staff consists of the Program Coordinator, who is a full-time
employee and the Stream Restoration Group Manager, who works for the Program on a part-time
basis along with his other duties. Their salaries are federally funded through the Consolidated
Federal Funds General Administration Fund. Personal services for these two employees are
approximately $70,000. In essence, the State is reaping additional benefits from the Stream
Partners Program due to the staff being funded by way of a Federal grant.
The Stream Partners Program has been a catalyst for watershed associations across the State. Although the number of applications has decreased from 66 in 1996 to 47 in 1999, the number of projects funded has increased from 19 in 1996 to 38 in 1999. The watershed associations have been able to take SPP grants ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 and use them to enhance their communities. The Stream Partners grants have given these "grass roots" associations credibility with their communities and other granting agencies. As a result, local businesses and citizens have donated time, equipment, and materials to help facilitate the completion of watershed projects and other organizations have provided additional funding on occasions. Consequently, the completed projects have instilled pride in communities and encouraged feelings of goodwill towards the State. The $100,000 that the Stream Partners Program receives each year from the Legislature can go a long way in helping watershed associations survive. The Stream Partners Program has been instrumental in the success that these watershed associations have enjoyed, providing a considerable return on the State's $100,000 per year investment.
ISSUE AREA 2:Controls Over Grant Money Distribution
Could Be Improved.
The distribution of grant money is an integral part of the Stream Partners Program (SPP) and demonstrates the Program's performance. The Legislative Auditor's review of the grantees' files indicates that there are deficiencies with the reporting and control process, which can lead to a less than ideal allocation of resources. The Stream Partners Program promulgated a Legislative Rule effective May 4, 1999, which provided some structure that was lacking in the Program prior to its passage. However, the Rule does not provide adequate consideration of the past performance of grantees. The Executive Committee needs to improve the review process by giving formal consideration to the grantees' past performance and incorporating logical reference points into the scoring system that is presently used. In addition, enhancing the application and reporting processes should allow the Program Coordinator and the Executive Committee to acquire a better understanding of the grantees' overall performance.
Controls used to Monitor Grantees
The Stream Partners Program has standards in place to allow it to monitor the status of the
grantees. For example, according to Legislative Rule, §60-4-9,
The grantee must provide a mid-grant year report, and a final report that will include the financial statement indicating how the grant money was spent, all in-kind services contributed including the 20% match. The grantee must retain all receipts from expenditures of grant for a minimum of three years. Grantees that do not comply with the reporting requirements will not be eligible for future funding. (Emphasis added.)
Legislative Auditor's Review of the Grant Applications
The Legislative Auditor analyzed the 61 applications that were approved for funding from 1996 to 1998. The Legislative Auditor targeted six areas that were deemed useful in evaluating a watershed's grant application and/or reflected a watershed association's past performance. These six areas represented suspected Program weaknesses after a preliminary review of the project files. Each of these areas has statutory basis and they all contribute to measuring the Stream Partners' effectiveness. The six areas and results of the analysis are as follows:
1) Percentage of files having required mid-term report;
2) Percentage of files having required final report;
3) Percentage of files demonstrating at least 20% in-kind contributions in the final report; 4) Percentage of projects that were completed by the end of the grant year and adhered to;
5) Percentage of files demonstrating at least 20% in-kind contributions in the application; and
6) Percentage of watershed associations that committed to a specific project.
|Percentage of Funded Proposals...||1996||1997||1998|
|Having mid-term reports||5%||79%||NA|
|Having final reports||95%||63%||NA|
|Demonstrating at least 20% in-kind contributions in final report||68%||47%||NA|
|Having project completed by end of grant year||63%||32%||NA|
|Demonstrating at least 20% in-kind contributions in application||21%||47%||87%|
|Committing to a specific project||95%||100%||100%|
The 20% in-kind contributions that are to be reported in the final reports are an important aspect of the reporting phase. In-kind contributions are valuable in terms of evaluating the success of a particular grantee. When local businesses and residents support a watershed association by donating time and materials, the SPP needs to be aware of these contributions. However, only 47% of the grantees reported in-kind contributions to the Stream Partners Program in grant year 1997. As a result, there is a lack of compliance with the statute. West Virginia Code §20-13-4 states in part,
...Each grant shall be matched by the group of representatives with cash or in-kind services in, at least, an amount equal to twenty percent of the grant: Provided, That no grant shall exceed the amount of five thousand dollars.
There have been two instances in the past where a watershed association was awarded a grant and then proceeded not to use any of the grant money within the grant year or failed to attempt a project within the grant year, due to lack of community involvement, technical assistance, or realization that the project was not going to be as effective as originally expected. This occurred during the first year of the Program when there was no Stream Partners staff and review team members assisted watershed associations as their work schedules allowed. Currently, the only type of disciplinary action that Stream Partners can take against a watershed association for failing to use any of the grant money during a grant year or failing to attempt a project is not to fund the group in the future. There is no account set up to put unused funds into if we were to ask for grant money to be returned. The Legislative rules do address the penalty and procedure that must be used for unexpended funds within the grant year.
An important aspect of the application process is the demonstration of in-kind contributions,
which relates to the ability of watershed associations to generate support for their projects within their
respective communities. During grant year 1996, only 21% of the grantees included at least a 20%
match of in-kind contributions in their applications. This figure rose to 47% in grant year 1997 and
increased to 87% in grant year 1998. Although there has been a constant rise in the number of
grantees which acknowledged the in-kind contributions, 46% of the grantees from grants years 1996
to 1998 did not estimate in-kind contributions within the application. Therefore, failing to do so
equates to a lack of compliance with West Virginia Code §20-13-4.
Another key element of the application process relates to a watershed association describing a precise watershed project. West Virginia Code §20-13-5 states in part, "...The application shall: (c) Demonstrate an ability to achieve within the grant year a specific improvement project that enhances the identified stream or streams..." This aspect of the application was adhered to completely during grant years 1997 and 1998, with 100% of the applicants complying. However, in grant year 1996, all but one applicant committed to a specific project. The lone exception did not define a specific project in its 1996 grant application. This association still received a $5,000 Stream Partners grant, of which $2,000 was not used until the 1998 funding year.
Strengthening of the Application and Reporting Processes
In order to avoid any confusion or misunderstanding, the Legislative Auditor feels that it would be beneficial for the SPP to include a completed sample application along with the application form when sending it to a potential applicant. This will allow a potential applicant to view a grant application in the correct format and lessen the chances of a grantee filling out the application incorrectly. If an application is still filled-out incorrectly, then the Stream Partners Program should return it to the applicant for corrections or remove it from consideration. For example, this would have been useful for a funded watershed association when it was preparing its 1996 application. Question #8 of the application states in part,
Provide an estimated Budget, including what local resources and in-kind services will support the activities of the organization including, if applicable, planning, organization, outreach, and coordination processes. Budgets may be revised as a group's goals develop...
Outreach - printing, postage, volunteers' lunches $ 100.00Transporting materials 800.00
This is just one of numerous applications which was not completed in the correct format. Sample mid year and final reports would also help to facilitate the reporting process. This will also give an applicant the opportunity to view mid-year and final reports in the correct format. If a mid-year or final report is still submitted incorrectly, then the Stream Partners Program should send the report back to the grantee, explaining what is wrong and requesting prompt re-submission. Providing sample applications and reports demonstrating the proper completion of each may even eliminate some of the 1-800 hotline calls, allowing the Coordinator to focus on other responsibilities.
The Legislative Auditor urges the SPP to require the grantees to report all other grants in addition to in-kind contributions when submitting final reports. Keeping a separate document listing other grants that watershed associations acquired would enable the Program Coordinator to further measure the effectiveness of the Stream Partners and the Stream Partners Program. When organizations such as Canaan Valley Institute and Trout Unlimited donate grants to watershed associations, the Stream Partners Program should be aware of it. These additional grants help justify the existence of the SPP and the required reporting of them will add value to the Program. This information is also useful in evaluating an association's ability to solicit grants and in-kind contributions to increase the State's return on Stream Partner's projects it funds.
Furthermore, the Legislative Auditor suggests that the Stream Partners Program require the
grantees to submit all receipts along with the final report, as opposed to retaining them for a minimum
of three years. There should be no additional cost involved and this would relieve the grantees' burden
of retaining the receipts. In addition, this will also hold the grantees to a higher level of accountability,
enable the SPP to monitor each grantee more closely, and help in determining a grantee's funding
status for the next funding year. Having the grantees submit receipts would allow for detection of any
misuse of funds or unethical activities.
Criteria for Reviewing Grant Applications
A system has been in place to evaluate grant applications since the inception of the Stream Partners Program. The Legislative Auditor confirmed this with the Program Coordinator, by stating,
The 1999 grant funding meeting was the first funding meeting to have the Legislative Rule in place. This Rule addresses the criteria used to evaluate the grant applications. The same criteria, including points assigned to the individual categories, that is in the Legislative Rule was adopted from the 1998 grant funding meeting. In addition, this criteria was used for the 1996 and 1997 funding meetings as well.
a) A showing of how the organization is a broad-based community organization, and the members represent diverse areas and organizations within the community. Also provide an overview of the organization's history (20 points);
b) A review of the issues that affect the stream or streams within the watershed (15 points);
c) A plan showing the organization's vision, mission, long-term goals, short-term goals, and the effect the project will have on the community (20 points);
d) A description of the watershed improvement project that will enhance the quality of the stream and the watershed (25 points);
e) A budget for the watershed improvement project which includes: how you plan to spend the grant, in-kind services, including the 20% match (10 points); and
f) Explain plans to provide education and outreach to the community about the importance of watershed protection and restoration (10 points).
In addition to the scoring system being incorporated into the Legislative Rule, the Program Coordinator has made strides in improving the grant application review process by creating a document to assist the committee members in their evaluation of the grant applications. This document has six columns that include the following information: 1) Group Name; 2) Contact Person; 3) Phone Number; 4) Project Description; 5) Previous Grant Status; and 6) Comments. The "Previous Grant Status" column includes the nature of the project and the amount of in-kind contributions. The Coordinator also created a document that illustrates the budget breakdown of each watershed association. This document can be used by the committee members to ensure that applicants adhere to Legislative Rule, §60-4-5, which states in part:
...Authorized uses of grant within the watershed improvement project may include the following: Production, copying and mailing of public information and educational materials to promote the protection of streams within the watershed, not to exceed 20% of the grant in total within the grant year;...General operating expenses of the organization, which can include acquiring and maintaining non-profit status in accordance with Federal 501 (c) (3), of the IRS Tax Code guidelines, not to exceed 20% of the grant in total within the grant year; Equipment for the watershed improvement project that will belong to the organization, not to exceed 20% of the grant in total within the grant year;...Travel expenses for watershed association members to be approved by Stream Partners Program Coordinator and Administrator, for educational training programs, not to exceed 20% of the grant in total within the grant year; and Office equipment and office supplies to support the watershed association, outreach efforts, and the watershed improvement project, not to exceed 20% in total within the grant year.
The Legislative Rule has provided more structure to the grant evaluation process. However, the Rule gives no consideration to the past performance by the applicable watershed associations. Although the document that the Program Coordinator created to assist the committee members includes previous in-kind contributions, the past reporting of in-kind contributions is not factored into the criteria created under Legislative Rule. There are no statutory provisions for the recovery of grant money not spent in accordance with the law or penalties for poor or even non-performance. Because of this, the Executive Committee has only the possible withholding of future funding and its careful decision making to control for desirable outcomes.
When scoring the grant applications, the Executive Committee should take into consideration areas that address the performance of watershed associations that have received grants in the past. For example, for each question listed below that has not been satisfied, the committee could deduct five or more points from the total points accumulated. Examples of questions the Executive Committee could incorporate into the current criteria follow:
1) Did the watershed association submit the mid-year report in a timely manner?;
2) Did the watershed association submit the final year report in a timely manner?;
3) Does the final report show evidence of project completion and adherence to the proposal?; and
4) Does the final report include in-kind contributions greater than or equal to 20% of the grant?
The 1999 Grant Funding Meeting
The Legislative Auditor observed the Stream Partners May 1999 grant funding meeting. Seven of the eight committee members were present, along with the Coordinator who served as the chairperson. The 1999 meeting began by having each committee member rank the applications by stating, "Fund," "No Fund" or "Maybe". There were 47 grant applications that were submitted to the Stream Partners Program for funding in 1999. Only one of the applications received unanimous approval after this first stage of the evaluation process. Then, the committee took the remaining applications and discussed the projects on an individual basis. Overall, 32 projects received partial funding, six received full funding, and nine received no funding.
Scoring System Needs Strengthened
The Executive Committee is adhering to the criteria within the Legislative Rule when evaluating grant applications. However, there are deficiencies with the scoring system. According to the Coordinator,
The criteria for funding for the West Virginia Stream Partners Program review team is a score sheet to be used by each member to rank applications. The total is then used by each member to give them a general ranking of the grants to be used in the discussion of which groups are to be funded. There is no grading scale that determines the cut off point for funding.
a) A showing of how the organization is a broad-based community organization, and the members represent diverse areas and organizations within the community. Also provide an overview of the organization's history.
The Stream Partners Program has made strides in improving the control it has over the grantees. For example, the changes to the grant application and the Legislative Rule passed in March 1999 have provided the SPP a better opportunity to monitor the grantees. However, additional changes need to be made in order to strengthen the SPP. These changes include: a) incorporating scoring for past performance into its grading scale; b) incorporating logical reference points into its grading scale; c) returning improperly completed applications for re-submission or denying them, and returning improperly completed reports for prompt re-submission; d) including a completed sample application along with the application form when sending to applicants and doing the same with mid year and final year reports; e) requiring grantees to report other grants in addition to in-kind contributions; and f) requiring grantees to submit all receipts relating to the SPP grant.
In addition to the aforementioned changes, the Stream Partners Program needs to continue to
improve the monitoring of the outstanding reports that grantees have not submitted. The lack of
reporting confounds the measurement of the SPP's effectiveness. The number of watershed
associations that have applied to the Stream Partners Program for funding continues to grow each year,
which means that it is increasingly important for the SPP to closely monitor the watershed
associations' performance so that the grant money is distributed fairly, equitably, and effectively each
The Stream Partners Program should incorporate scoring for past performance into its grading
The Stream Partners Program should incorporate logical reference points into its grading scale
to help achieve consistency in the grant application review process.
The Stream Partners Program should return improperly completed applications for re
submission or deny them and return improperly completed reports for prompt re-submission.
The Stream Partners Program should include a completed sample application along with the application form to ensure that the applications are filled out properly. Sample mid-year and final reports should also be included with the reporting form when they are mailed to the applicants.
The Stream Partners Program should require reporting of other grants in addition to in-kind contributions.
The Stream Partners Program should require the grantees to submit all receipts pertaining to the expenditures of the Stream Partners grant.
ISSUE AREA 3:The Stream Partners Program Has Deviated from
the Governance Structure Established in Statute
and Violated the Open Meetings Law.
The Legislature created the Stream Partners Program in 1996 with the intention of having a four person Executive Committee to administer the Program. The Governor was to designate a member of the Executive Committee to serve as the chairman. However, the Stream Partners Program has an eight member "Review Team" which was initially created as an advisory subcommittee to the Executive Committee and has evolved into a default Executive Committee due to the lack of participation by the four administering agency Directors. Further, no official chairman has of yet been appointed by the Governor. During the first three years of funding, the Review Team did not conduct any open meetings and the Directors have never met on a formal basis.
The Intent of the Legislature
The Stream Partners Program is administered by four separate agencies: 1) the Division of Natural Resources; 2) the Division of Environmental Protection; 3) the Division of Forestry; and 4) the West Virginia State Soil Conservation Agency. West Virginia Code §20-13-3 states,
The director or commissioner of each of these administering agencies or his or her designee shall collectively constitute an executive committee to oversee the program. The governor shall designate a member of the executive committee to serve as chair. The committee may designate a staff member from the existing staff of one of the administering agencies to coordinate the program on behalf of the executive committee.
The governance structure of the Stream Partners Program as implemented does not fully meet the requirements of statute. As quoted above, West Virginia Code §20-13-3 requires that an Executive Committee, comprised of the Director of each of the administering agencies, or his/her designee, oversee the Program (see Appendix B for West Virginia Code §20-13-1 et seq.). The Statute also requires the Governor to designate a chair of the Executive Committee. As of July 1999, there is neither a committee holding public meetings under the name of the "Executive Committee" nor has a Chair been designated by the Governor. In addition, Program staff informed the Legislative Auditor that the agency Directors "have never met on a formal basis, therefore no motions are made and no minutes are kept." At the exit conference for this review, persons representing the administering agencies indicated the Directors did meet informally on one occasion when the Program was first being implemented.
The role of the Executive Committee is currently being met by a committee commonly referred to as the "Review Team" or "Grant Selection Committee." Because members of the Review Team conduct all business the Executive Committee is required by statute to conduct, the Legislative Auditor has determined the Review Team to be the default Executive Committee. The Review Team meets on an annual basis and includes two members of each of the four administering agencies for a total of eight members. However, until it met May 20, 1999, to award grants for the 1999 funding year, it did not hold open meetings. In addition, no minutes were kept for those meetings. Currently, the designated Coordinator serves as the Chair at the Review Team meetings.
The opinion of the Legislative Auditor that the Review Team is the default Executive Committee is in contrast with the view of the SPP staff. When Program staff was asked to explain who is the Executive Committee, they responded as follows:
The "Review Team" does act for the four agency directors that make up the "Executive
Committee". The eight "Review Team" members serve as the directors' designees.
Official actions are taken at the "Review Team" level with recommendation being made
to the "Executive Committee" for the final action.
The subtle disagreement between the Legislative Auditor and SPP administrative staff is largely a matter of semantics. The question of whether the Review Team is the actual Executive Committee or an advisory subcommittee thereto is moot. Either scenario presents fundamental governance concerns. If the Review Team is actually the Executive Committee, the Committee has twice its allotment of members, met only informally until its last funding meeting, maintained no records of its meetings, and allowed persons not on the Executive Committee (the agency Directors) veto power over its decisions. If the Executive Committee is actually the four agency Directors, then the Committee has funded projects without ever having met on a formal basis, and the decisions of an advisory subcommittee have become the default decisions of the Committee if a project was not vetoed at the initiative of an individual Committee member.
For an official answer concerning the composition of the Executive Committee, the Legislative Auditor sent a request to each of the administering agencies' Directors asking for either a copy of the letter of appointment sent to any person currently serving as a Director's designee to the Executive Committee or a brief letter in response naming the person representing the agency on the Executive Committee. The letter of request included West Virginia Code §20-13-3, "West Virginia stream partners program created; executive committee identified; program coordination," as an attachment. Every possibility is represented in the responses received. The Director of the Division of Environmental Protection indicated that he will personally serve as the Division's representative to the SPP Executive Committee. Similarly, the State Soil Conservation Agency reported that the Executive Director continues to serve as the Agency's representative to the Executive Committee. The Director of the Division of Natural Resources responded,
I am pleased to advise you that Mr. [X, one of the DNR's two designees to the Review
Team] of our Wildlife Resources Section has been the Division of Natural Resources
representative on this Executive Committee for the Stream Partners Program since its
The Director/State Forester of the Division of Forestry, in his response to the request, explained the Division's history of appointments, using the terms "team," "committee," and "program" interchangeably. The letter names the two current members of the Review Team as the Committee members. The responses of the four Directors can be found in Appendix C. Of four Directors having positions on the Executive Committee for themselves or their designees, two Directors communicated a will to represent themselves on the Executive Committee, another named one of two designees to the Review Team as having been the representative to the Executive Committee since the Program's creation, and another named the two current representatives of the Review Team as the Executive Committee members referring to the "Review Team" and the "Executive Committee" interchangeably. Clearly, there is no consensus among the Directors of the four administering agencies concerning the question "Who is the Executive Committee?"
The Legislative Rule of the Program, Title 60, Series 4, which can be found in its entirety in Appendix D, includes the following definition:
2.5. "Executive Committee Review Team" means a team consisting of two members of
each of the four agencies that jointly administer the program. These agencies included:
West Virginia Divisions of Environmental Protection, Forestry, Natural Resources, and
the West Virginia State Soil Conservation Agency.
The definition combines the names "Executive Committee" and "Review Team" into "Executive Committee Review Team." The definition describes the Review Team, not the Executive Committee, which is described in West Virginia Code §20-13-3 which reads, "The director or commissioner of each of these administering agencies or his or her designee shall collectively constitute an executive committee to oversee the program." References to the "Review Team" occur throughout the rule, while no references to the "Executive Committee" are made. The "Executive Committee Review Team" is not referenced except for the definition above. Thus, the Division of Environmental Protection, which is charged in §20-13-4 with the responsibility of promulgating the Stream Partners Program rule, will need to promulgate a new rule replacing references to the "Review Team" and "Executive Committee Review Team" with "Executive Committee" and defining "Executive Committee" in a manner consistent with Code §20-13-3.
Lack of Notice and Minutes for Meetings
The Legislative Auditor contacted the Secretary of State's Office to see if any meetings were
filed for the Stream Partners Program from 1996 to 1998. The Secretary of State's Office informed
the Legislative Auditor that no notice of meetings had been filed for that time span. Since the meetings
were not open, the actions of the Review Team could have been voided due to a 1996 West Virginia
Supreme Court Case ruling. According to West Virginia Code §6-9A-3, "...all meetings of any
governing body shall be open to the public, proof of an intent to violate this section is not required to
establish that a violation has occurred." Therefore, all of the meetings that have resulted in grant
money being disbursed by the Stream Partners Program could have been nullified by a court of law
prior to the 120 day statute of limitations tolling. As of July 1999, the Legislative Auditor was not
aware of any actions taken in closed meetings which are not relieved by the statute of limitations.
According to the Program Coordinator, "the review team/grant selection team meets on an annual basis, but no minutes are kept of the activities that transpire." By not keeping minutes, the Review Team is in violation of West Virginia Code §6-9A-5 which states,
Each governing body shall provide for the preparation of written minutes of all of its meetings. All such minutes shall be available to the public within a reasonable time after the meeting and shall include, at least, the following information:
(1) The date, time and place of the meeting;
(2) The name of each member of the governing body present and absent;
(3) All motions, proposals, resolutions, orders, ordinances and measures proposed, the name of the person proposing the same and their disposition; and
(4) The results of all votes and, upon the request of a member, the vote of each member, by name.
Minutes of executive sessions may be limited to material the disclosure of which is not inconsistent with the provisions of section four [§6-9A-4] of this article.
Each governing body shall provide for the preparation of written minutes of all of its meetings. Subject to the exceptions set forth in section four of this article, minutes of all meetings except minutes of executive sessions, if any are taken, shall be available to the public within a reasonable time after the meeting and shall include, at least, the following information:
(1) The date, time and place of the meeting;
(2) The name of each member of the governing body present and absent;
(3) All motions, proposals, resolutions, orders, ordinances and measures proposed, the name of the person proposing the same and their disposition; and
(4) The results of all votes and, upon the request of a member, pursuant to the rules, policies or procedures of the governing board for recording roll call votes, the vote of each member, by name.
Upon consideration of the question "Who is the Executive Committee?" only one thing is certain: The present system of Program governance could not be more ambiguous. Statute requires the four Directors to either actively participate as members of the Executive Committee or designate a person to serve in their stead. Given the fundamental deficiencies in the current structure of governance, it is imperative that the Directors or their duly appointed designees convene as a bona fide Executive Committee for the purpose of administering the Stream Partners Program as required by law.
The intent of the Legislature is to have a four person Executive Committee to oversee the Stream Partners Program. If the Review Team is, in fact, the Executive Committee, the Committee has twice its allotment of members, met only informally until its last funding meeting, maintained no records of its meetings, and allowed persons not on the Executive Committee (the agency Directors) veto power over its decisions. If the Executive Committee is actually the four agency Directors then the Committee has funded projects without ever having met on a formal basis, and the decisions of an advisory subcommittee have become the default decisions of the Committee if a project was not vetoed at the initiative of an individual Committee member.
Until the May 1999 grant funding meeting, the Stream Partners Program failed to have open
meetings and to keep minutes of meetings, both violations of the statute. The Legislative Auditor feels
that the representatives of the Stream Partners Program were simply unfamiliar with the requirements
of the Code and did not intentionally attempt to commit any violations. Once these concerns were
brought to their attention, they responded in a timely manner to rectify the situation.
The four agencies should adhere to legislative intent and affirm a four person Executive Committee to oversee the Stream Partners Program.
The Executive Committee and any committees reporting thereto should comply fully with the Open Meetings Law, by filing notice of its meetings with the Secretary of State's Office, making meetings open to the public and keeping minutes of its meetings.
The Governor should designate a Chair of the Executive Committee as soon as possible.
The Executive Committee should make all final decisions.
The Stream Partners Program should revise its Legislative Rule by replacing the "Executive
Committee Review Team" definition and all references to the "Review Team" with a definition and
appropriate references to the "Executive Committee" in a manner consistent with West Virginia Code