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Oklahoma City bombing fund officials say criticism unjust

Officials of a foundation holding $10 million in funds donated for the benefit of Oklahoma City bombing survivors say they believe divvying up the money among survivors would be a huge blunder.
by Randy Ellis Published: November 12, 2012

It also recommends setting aside $400,000 to assist other communities that experience disasters and $500,000 for long-term studies on things like how money can best be used to assist survivors of disasters.

So far, the foundation has provided $456,688 in interest earnings to the Oklahoma City National Memorial and $10,000 each in tornado relief funds to Alabama and Joplin, Mo., but the rest of the more than $10 million in bombing fund money is intact and available for use by Oklahoma bombing survivors, who can show legitimate needs, Anthony said.

Bombing survivor Falesha Joyner, 40, of Oklahoma City and some other survivors have told the Tulsa World they believe earnings from bombing funds should be reserved for direct assistance to Oklahoma City bombing survivors.

“I understand (there are) other disasters, but why not help us?” she asked.

Denny, however, said he approves of the expenditures.

“I have no problem with that,” he said. “I think that's good forethought to look to the future.”

Audit requested

Oklahoma City Community Foundation officials announced Thursday that they have asked for an audit of the Disaster Relief Fund in hopes of relieving any concerns about the way the fund was administered.

The Oklahoma City Community Foundation is an umbrella organization that administers about 1,300 nonprofit funds with combined assets of more than $632 million.

Administering the bombing fund is just a small part of the foundation's responsibilities, but one that takes up a large amount of staff members' time, Anthony said.

Anthony, foundation trustee Steve Mason and bombing fund trustee John Belt met Friday with The Oklahoman and Tulsa World to discuss the bombing fund and misconceptions they believe have arisen.

“We believe we have funded 100 percent of the eligible expenses for people under the rules that were put in place in 1995,” said Steve Mason, foundation trustee.

That includes keeping a commitment to pay the postsecondary education costs for children who lost one or both parents in the bombing and surviving children who were in the Murrah Federal Building day care when the bomb exploded.

Officials identified 213 children as being eligible for such funds, and to date the fund has paid for 171 to attend one or more semesters of college or technical school. Eleven have earned associate degrees or technical certificates, 51 have earned bachelor's degrees and four are still in high school and have not yet reached eligibility status, Anthony said.

The fund has not just handed out scholarships, Anthony said. It has counseled them and guided them in preparing for college, she said. Sometimes it has paid for tutoring, graduation announcements and ACT tests.

Likewise, the bombing fund has not just paid medical expenses, she said.

It also has provided case managers to help survivors get available assistance not just from the fund, but from Social Security, workers' compensation, insurance and other sources.

Anthony said she has read public claims by some bombing survivors that they were denied payments for legitimate medical and education expenses.

Those claims are “not accurate” or the result of misunderstandings, she said.

“There are no more conscientious people than the ones who work here,” Belt said. “To suggest that is not the case is simply wrong.”

Belt said if people want to be critical of the organization, they need to think about what would have happened if the foundation hadn't taken on the task.

by Randy Ellis
Investigative Reporter
For the past 30 years, staff writer Randy Ellis has exposed public corruption and government mismanagement in news articles. Ellis has investigated problems in Oklahoma's higher education institutions and wrote stories that ultimately led to two...
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At a glance

The bombing fund and the foundation

The Oklahoma City Community Foundation administers about 1,300 nonprofit funds with combined assets of more than $632 million. The foundation has distributed about $11.1 million from the Disaster Relief Fund and still has about $10 million in bombing funds.

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