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WNCN Investigates

Governor celebrates non-profit with troubled history

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RALEIGH, N.C. -

Gov. Pat McCrory threw praise on the Golden LEAF Foundation Monday, saying the foundation's projects will reach 6 million people, including millions of school children who will benefit from its contributions.

It bills itself as a non-profit, aimed at bringing broadband access and educational tools, among other efforts, to rural towns and schools.

"One of the biggest pieces of feedback I get from rural areas is, 'We have to connect, or we will die economically,'" said McCrory.

But where does the foundation get its money, and how does it spend it?

WNCN found the foundation receives half of North Carolina's share of a legal settlement with cigarette manufacturers. It works out to about $70 million a year, according to the foundation's records.

The foundation has awarded more than $459 million since its inception in 1999.

But is it money well spent?

In 2009, a tough report by the State Auditor's office said, "Golden LEAF procedures do not ensure effective oversight of grant activities. While Golden LEAF performs various monitoring activities, Golden LEAF grant monitoring and reporting practices are not sufficient to ensure effective and accountable economic development efforts for approximately $326.2 million in grants awarded to date"

A scathing 2012 state audit claimed, the foundation failed to properly oversee millions of that grant money--failing to monitor if grantees were spending their money for the right reasons.

The State Auditor "found that sufficient documentation is not always submitted to validate reported uses of funds, and information is often not provided to substantiate the attainment of performance goals"

The foundation agreed to make changes after the audit.

But in the wake of the recent NC Rural Center scandal, another state-funded non-profit which an audit found was misusing funds, it puts a spotlight on others, like Golden LEAF.

WNCN wanted to ask McCrory if he is planning to take a closer look at his support of Golden LEAF, and their finances. He quickly exited the building, refusing the stop for questions.

WNCN doesn't know who got the money that may have been spent with a lack of oversight. The auditor told us those details are confidential by law and not for public release.

WNCN Investigates also asked the auditor if she will re-audit Golden Leaf to see if their financial oversight has truly improved. Her office says its likely. They give an organization two to three years before another audit to improve themselves.

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Jonathan Carlson

Jonathan is an investigative reporter and anchor with over a decade of experience. Jonathan has broken stories that have resulted in local and statewide change. Contact our Investigative Team anytime HERE. More>>

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