ANNAPOLIS – A legislative analyst charged Thursday that the Office for Children, Youth and Families used “subterfuge” to illegally accumulate $10.4 million in a subcabinet fund.
Department of Legislative Services Senior Policy Analyst Lori O’Brien, in a report on Gov. Robert Ehrlich’s supplemental budget released Wednesday, applauded the office for coming forward with the fund once it realized what had occurred.
However, O’Brien’s report at a House subcommittee hearing Thursday said “the subcabinet intentionally misled the General Assembly by underreporting the available funding.”
Ehrlich included the money in his $31 million supplemental budget, the bulk of which was devoted to children’s services and juvenile detention.
The money in the Subcabinet for Children, Youth and Families Resource Fund was accrued since 1997 under the administration of former Gov. Parris Glendening.
Bonnie Kirkland, assistant attorney general, who headed the subcabinet from 1999 to 2003, said she was not aware of any intentional reporting errors and that budget issues were dealt with by a number of people on her staff.
Appropriated funds were always spent down, Kirkland said, but extra money came into the account throughout the year.
“It was always a fluid number,” she said.
O’Brien’s budget report indicates that the department questioned a $6.7 million fund balance in 2000, when Kirkland was in charge of the agency, because state law prohibits accrual of a balance over $1 million in this fund.
“We know the person that did it,” O’Brien said, but she declined to identify who the department thinks was responsible.
Current agency head, M. Teresa Garland, who took over for Kirkland in March 2003, brought the fund balance to light about a month ago, O’Brien said.
The governor has not initiated an investigation regarding the fund balance.
“Governor Ehrlich shares the concerns of the committee with regard to accepted practices for accumulation of funds,” said Shareese DeLeaver, his spokeswoman. “He believes no criminal activity has taken place.”
DeLeaver also said Garland instituted new fiscal safeguards to prevent further problems.