The foundation has countered that it is following strict Internal Revenue Service regulations governing such funds and providing reasonable oversight to make the dollars stretch as far as possible.
However, records show that at least some of the interest earned on money in the fund is being used on expenses other than those directly requested by survivors.
First reported by the Tulsa World, the issue drew the attention of former Gov. Frank Keating and former Oklahoma City mayor Ron Norick, both of whom subsequently requested a performance audit of the fund. In the aftermath of the 1995 bombing, the two were among those responsible for transferring scattered donations to the central fund under the OCCF.
Deloris Watson, the grandmother of P.J. Allen, the youngest survivor in the building’s day care center, said foundation officials have insisted that the fund should be a resource of last resort. Watson said the foundation has encouraged survivors and their families to get on public assistance before requesting help from the fund for medical bills and the like.
Watson fought for nearly a year to have the fund pay for the removal of Allen’s tracheotomy tube. SoonerCare ultimately paid for most of the treatment, she said.
She and about a dozen other survivors and survivors’ relatives have asked Gov. Mary Fallin to close the fund and distribute the remaining money to survivors and families of those who died.
“In one day, the injured people from the Oklahoma City bombing can be removed from the tax roll as recipients of welfare. I can’t see why Gov. Fallin wouldn’t see that as a win-win situation for everyone,” Watson said.
IRS records show that around $10.4 million was in the fund at the end of 2011. It originally had around $14.6 million, but donations from around the country has been invested in bonds over the years, said Cathy Nestlen, director of communications for the Community Foundation.
She said IRS regulations for disaster relief funds require that people seek out all other avenues for which to cover medical care or other expenses before utilizing the fund.
Nestlen said the OCCF welcomes the performance audit, but cautioned that it likely isn’t legally possible to eliminate the fund and divvy up the money.
Her sentiments are echoed by Keating.
“There was never an intention to have an insurance fund and divide all the money,” he said.
A memo from Community Foundation Executive Director Nancy Anthony to the fund’s trustees in February discussed disbursement of around $4.4 million that the fund’s money made from investments.
That money is slated to be put toward long-term studies of treatment and services, aiding other communities affected by disaster, helping the Oklahoma City National Memorial qualify for federal matching funds and training individuals in disaster and emergency response.
Nestlen said the memorial is considered part of community healing and that if the $4.4 million was ever needed for the survivors, it could be taken out of those funds and placed back into the survivors’ fund.