Boothe also talked about an audit that his agency did of one program, Community Action of South Eastern West Virginia (CASE). That audit found:
After the audit, the agency continued to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars from the state.
Unger asked, "If they're doing it, what do you say? Bad practice, shame on you?"
Boothe replied that state officials put CASE on a "corrective action plan" and determined that nothing illegal happened. He also said that he didn't know of any similar practices in other agencies.
Last summer, Boothe and other state officials quietly scrapped the Wheels lease-to-own program in favor of a new, donated-car program. The model for the program, he said, was Good News Mountaineer Garage.
But the Department of Health and Human Resources recently awarded the $1 million grant to Morgantown-based Human Resources Development Foundation, an offshoot of the state AFL-CIO. Human Resources Development Foundation was one of the four programs that ran the former Wheels program.
Sen. Brooks McCabe, D-Kanawha, asked why HRDF got the grant, when the pilot program was a success and the lease program was not.
Boothe said that HRDF ran a good program, according to his staff. A recent program audit found only eight important problems, as opposed to 20 for CASE.
Also, that agency's proposal was more than $400,000 cheaper than Good News Mountaineer Garage, which says that HRDF is not spending enough to run an effective program.
Earlier this week, Sen. Larry Rowe, D-Kanawha, asked state Secretary of Health and Human Resources Paul Nusbaum for a review of that decision.
Also, HRDF gave legislators a report defending its program. It said the agency carefully monitored expenditures to make sure repair costs were reasonable.
The report says the agency repossessed 161 of the 610 vehicles it leased, or about one in four. The state Department of Health and Human Resources released a report earlier this month that said 227 vehicles were repossessed.
AFL-CIO President Jim Bowen attended the interim meeting where the Wheels program was discussed, but was unable to speak because the committee ran out of time. He is scheduled to speak at next month's interim meeting.
To contact staff writers Scott Finn and Eric Eyre, use e-mail or call 357-4323.