On Your Side: Grant money missing

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Updated: 2/12/2014 6:16 pm
GARDNERVILLE, Nev. (MyNews4.com & KRNV) -- There are growing questions about what happened to more than $2 million in federal money which was set aside for fire protection in the Tahoe Basin. Those who did the work say they cannot get any answers.

Gardnerville's Joe Benigno is one of nearly 40 contractors hired by the now-defunct Nevada Fire Safe Council to clear brush and trees in an effort to reduce the risk of a major wildfire in the Tahoe basin.

The work was done more than two years ago, in the summer of 2011. But the contractors and business owners have yet to be paid.

Benigno, who owns his own tree service in Gardnerville, says he is owed $19,000. "The work's been done. The trees are gone. The trees are trimmed. The neighbors are safer, the Tahoe basin's safer. But at whose expense?"

According to a bankruptcy court filing, the total amount owed to all of the contractors is about $2.5 million. That's $2.5 million in grant money, your taxpayer dollars, that is unaccounted for after federal auditors discovered lapse bookkeeping practices at the Nevada Fire Safe Council, a non-profit which was created to manage fuel reduction projects.

Grant money intended for different government agencies was apparently deposited into one account at the Nevada Fire Safe Council, when it should have been kept separate. That spurred an investigation by the Office of Inspector General.

But where the money is now, no one seems to know. At least, no one is willing to say. We asked State Senator James Settelmeyer, who represents Douglas County, if the money has disappeared. "That's the issue of the day." Settelmeyer said. "Where is it?"

We also asked Senator Harry Reid's office for information on several occasions. So far, Reid's office has refused to comment on where the money went or what the Majority Leader is doing to get answers for the contractors who did the work.

Joe Benigno says he's simply tired of being in the dark. "The biggest frustration is just not getting a straight answer. At least be honest with us and let us know where we stand."

Where does this go from here? On Your Side will continue searching for answers. The first priority is figuring out what happened to that $2.5 million dollars. Someone, at some level of government, has to know.

If you have something you would like us to investigate, email Joe Hart at jhart@mynews4.com.
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theresa7 - 2/26/2014 5:33 PM
0 Votes
We are one of these very small family own that also did work that we were not paid for. We are owed $69,640.00 for over two years now. Nobody wants to give us any information or our money..If we owed the government this money we would be in jail and owing fines.

spike - 2/20/2014 5:07 PM
0 Votes
And just where do you think Harrys money comes from. If he is elected again, shame on Nevada

BDeckwa - 2/15/2014 8:41 PM
0 Votes
If Reid's office will not answer the question, start looking into his bank accounts.

collins15 - 2/13/2014 11:34 AM
0 Votes
Of course Harry Reid is MIA! The folks who lose out are the small business people who have already paid the salaries, insurance and taxes for 2011. Now they are expected to wait for payment while yet another government debacle, even at the small government end, tries to make heads or tails of public or privately funded grant money that should have been placed in a safe account for the sole purpose of paying the contractural business owners. Sounds like an audit is in order.

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