Update: Show-Me Social Justice International Film Festival

You might recall that in late summer, early fall we alerted the taxpayers of the state that our state government was using nearly $100,000 of borrowed Chinese money in support of the Show-Me Social Justice International Film Festival. Legislators received thousands of e-mails about this issue!  As a result, the Department of Social Services acknowledged a problem and has asked for the return of the money.

Here is an update on the issue provided to one of the grassroots folks involved in contacting their legislator:

Your e-mail concerning the Missouri Show Me Justice Film Festival, sponsored by the Missouri Valley Community Action Agency, was forwarded to me for response.  As you may know, the Department of Social Services (DSS) has determined to disallow the funding for this project as not compatible with federal guidelines. (Editor’s note: Makes you wonder if it was compatible with state guidelines?) I thought it might be helpful for you to have the following information about the festival, and if you have any further questions after reviewing, please let me know:

How did this happen in the first place? The Community Action Agencies are established under federal law to receive and administer federal funds available to the state under the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG).  There are 19 Community Action Agencies across the state.  The purpose of the CSBG is to provide funds at the local level to address or reduce conditions of poverty.  Each year, Missouri receives and passes through to the Community Action Agencies about $19 million in federal funds under CSBG.   In addition, the ARRA provided Missouri an additional $27 million in CSBG, which too was passed through to the Community Action Agencies.  Of these amounts, the Missouri Valley Community Action Agency received approximately $531,000 and $849,000 respectively. The amount of this project was $99,540.

– Who was responsible for making the decision to use these funds for this project? The Community Action Agencies are responsible for the use of the CSBG funds that are passed-through to them.  Each agency provides a spending plan for their allocation to the Department.  A “social justice film festival” was among the projects identified by the Missouri Valley Community Action Agency for its ARRA CSBG allocation.  The project description suggested an event as a way to engage the broader community in education and discussion on the issues of poverty in mid-Missouri. (Editor’s note: The good folks at DSS are not new to the political game.  They knew or should have known that “social justice” is code word for liberal agenda items)

– What will be done to insure the return of the money to the taxpayers? DSS will ensure that the costs of the film festival are not charged as an allowable cost to the CSBG.   DSS will work with the Community Action Agency to settle the issue.  DSS has begun to recoup funds allotted in advance of this event, and it has recovered $33,825 to date.  DSS has just received an invoice from Missouri Valley Community Action Agency for the remaining $33,825 that the Community Action Agency received before the festival. (Editor’s note: So the math would seem to indicate that they had paid all but $33,825 to the MVCAA.  We will keep asking about the remaining $66,000)

– What corrective actions will be put into place to prevent such poor expenditures of my tax dollars in the future? Community Action Agencies are required annually to have an independent A-133 compliant audit and to provide a copy of the audit to the Department of Social Services. In addition, the Department of Social Services conducts on-site reviews of each Community Action Agency every three years.  Finally, the Department may, at its discretion, conduct ad hoc reviews as needed to ensure program compliance, as is the case with the film festival.  Through these mechanisms, the Department can ensure that funds spent by the Community Action Agencies are compliant with the provisions of the CSBG. (Editor’s Note: In other words, nothing was learned from this experience)

I know that we are all appreciative of the Department being responsive to the inquiry.  However, we are left with little confidence that any new procedures were put into place to insure that this type of misappropriation of tax dollars won’t be made again.

Carl Bearden
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4 Responses to “Update: Show-Me Social Justice International Film Festival”

  1. kate says:

    We were present at meetings in January 2010 about this ‘wonderful’ upcoming opportunity. The presenters from MVCAA nearly took over our meeting’s agenda each time and continued to come back each month. They insisted they needed a “six-screens free” venue to show the submitted films (even though no such facility existed in our nine county region). The location of the “international” film festival was moved outside our area. We were pressed on several occasions to make our produce & products available to film goers at reduced prices, to rent booths, to provide names of restaurants or caterers who might provide food, ect. However, even at the last, only chefs from the St. Louis or Kansas City, MO area had responded to supply any food (as if they needed economic stiulus!!). We could not leave our small business on that weekend during the local festival celebrations /& harvest season, to humor their demands for a questionable return, let alone leave the ‘store un-attended” (We are already everything from CEO to janitor wrapped in one). To them it only appeared to be ‘a romantic outing in the country’ to spout their questionable & liberal agenda and a ‘party-time’. The day before the Festival was to start, we heard on a local radio station that there were accusations of fraud and mis-representation and mis-spending – but we had heard nothing since then – until I saw this report at unitedformissouri. Thanks!

    • Carl Bearden says:

      Thank you for giving us the small business perspective on this issue. This was an embarrassing use of borrowed Chinese stimulus dollars and clearly demonstrates how un-stimulating the stimulus program really is/was.

  2. WTF says:

    Really? I thought this was a great opportunity for the Warrensburg community. I also attended meetings where they presented information on the film festival. I think they did a fabulous job with the lack of support they received from Johnson County. Kudos to them!