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November 19, 2012

Pa. Audit Questions Spending by Group Linked to Lawmaker

Pennsylvania has frozen grants to two Philadelphia nonprofit organizations with ties to an influential state legislator following an audit that alleged one of them mismanaged $1.5-million in state money, reports The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Since 1999 the Urban Affairs Coalition and the Ogontz Avenue Revitalization Corporation have received more "walking around money"—grants arranged by legislators to support projects in their districts—than any other Pennsylvania nonprofits. During most of that period, Rep. Dwight Evans, whom the head of the Urban Affairs Coalition termed a mentor, chaired the powerful House Appropriations Committee, which disbursed such grants.

The audit, commissioned by the state inspector general's office, found that the coalition spent $1-million to renovate a nursing home run by a former Philadelphia councilman who was convicted in a mob-linked extortion scheme and, at Mr. Evans' direction, hired a city pastor and his aide who were paid $365,000 for work the auditors could not verify.

Mr. Evans did not respond to requests for comment. Sharmain Matlock-Turner, president of the coalition, said the group has cooperated with auditors but said she could not comment on their report because she has not yet seen it.