The agency sold 103 vehicles last year for about $450 each. Within the last two years, it had bought the same vehicles for five times as much, an average of $2,300.
State officials started an audit of the Human Resources Development Foundation in May, but they didn't release the results until last week, after the grant had been awarded.
Good News Mountaineer Garage officials do not run a West Virginia Wheels-to-Work leasing program. Instead, they take donated cars, fix them up and give them to current and former welfare recipients who need them to get to work.
The state quietly decided to scrap its car-leasing Wheels program in August, in favor of the a donated-car program. The Wheels program officially ends Dec. 31.
Good News Mountaineer Garage was the model for the statewide donated-car program, said Fred Boothe, commissioner of DHHR's Bureau of Children and Families. It has given cars to 320 families since 2001.
"We've worked with them for a year and a half," he said. "We've been able to see it's a very effective program."
But Boothe and other state officials denied Good News Mountaineer Garage's request for a hearing into the bid process.
The Human Resources Development Foundation submitted a lower bid for the new grant — $1 million, compared to $1.4 million for Good News Mountaineer Garage.
The proposal calls for 250 cars to be donated next year, but the Human Resources Development Foundation only budgeted for 215 cars to fix, maintain for 30 days, and pay taxes and registration fees.
Rowe's letter also says that state officials may have changed, or "reconstructed," Good News Mountaineer Garage's bid without consulting the group's leaders.
To contact staff writers Scott Finn and Eric Eyre, use e-mail or call 357-4323.