Conflicts of interest found in teen programs

Members of county organizations responsible for distributing money to programs designed to keep teens out of trouble sometimes are the same people who operate the programs, according to a state audit released Tuesday.

State Auditor Les Merritt's office recommended that the Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention bar directors or managers of programs from serving on a Juvenile Crime Prevention Council in the county the program serves.

The performance audit found no abuses of these relationships, but said conflict rules should be improved because it “creates the potential for abuse.”

The councils, found in each of the 100 counties, share $23 million annually to create local treatment and counseling programs for at-risk youth or those involved in criminal activity.

Auditors determined that 14 of the councils had as members the managers of programs that receive council money. These members represented about 17 of the 499 programs funded through the councils in 2006-07. None was in the Charlotte area.

Of the 17, six received more than half of the total funds allocated in each county. In Pamlico County, the StillWaters counseling program received 88 percent of the $67,497 allocated by the council, the report said.