LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraska’s state auditor says an alcohol prevention group made a number of unpermitted and unreasonable purchases with grant funding in 2015 and 2016.
The report, issued by State Auditor Charlie Janssen on Wednesday, says Project Extra Mile’s expenses included a $4,600 dinner that was more entertainment than business as well as too many meals for training events.
The nonprofit’s interim director, Diane Riibe, claims the report was politically motivated and factually incorrect in spots.
“Nowhere is there fraud. Nowhere is there mismanagement. Nowhere is there malfeasance,” Riibe said. “So you have to ask, ‘Why?'”
Mary Avery, the state auditor office’s special audits and finance manager, says the auditor initiated the review after the office heard substantiated concerns about the nonprofit’s spending of federal dollars.
The majority of the group’s money comes from grants. According to its most recent filings, Project Extra Mile received approximately $405,000 in income between October 2014 and September 2015.
The report said the group violated federal regulations that prohibit lobbying with grant funds when it held educational meetings with senators, attended Liquor Control Commission meetings and tweeted opposition to alcohol-related legislation.
Riibe argued these meetings are not considered lobbying. When the nonprofit does engage in lobbying, Riibe said they do not do so with grant funds.
She also criticized auditors for pointing out the expensive conference dinner and training event meals. Riibe said that the expenses for four speakers to attend the conference is “phenomenally typical” for nonprofits.
“Somehow we got dinged for having too many sandwiches,” Riibe said, referring to meal expenses at the group’s training events.
While Riibe said the audit gave the nonprofit the opportunity to review its practices and provide reimbursements, Avery said her office did remove some items from the report that Project Extra Mile supported by providing documentation.