Howard County Executive Ken Ulman has requested a county audit of the defunct 32-year-old nonprofit that helped victims of sexual abuse but suddenly went out of business late last year.
"We have questions," Ulman said, particularly since the 2008 audit revealed no financial problems at the Sexual Trauma Treatment Advocacy and Recovery Center, known as the STTAR Center.
"This happened ostensibly out of the blue, but the previous audit did not indicate any problem," he said.
"We provide grants to them," Ulman said, noting that county money already paid to the nonprofit was to be used for staff salaries through December, yet the staff was effectively laid off at the end of November.
"Where did the county dollars go?" Ulman asked.
Auditor Haskell Arnold said his office has been in touch with Barbara Lawson, the retired former director of the Columbia Foundation who volunteered to help wrap up affairs for the center.
A hand-delivered letter addressed to the center's leaders, including board chairwoman Lisa Bailey, was dated Dec. 23. It asks Bailey and others to preserve the organization's records to allow a county audit. The county allocated $233,000 in grants as part of the group's $1 million annual budget. Bailey declined to comment on the audit request, though Lawson said the group would cooperate fully.
"There's no question about cooperating," she said.
Arnold's office met with STTAR Center leaders Tuesday, Lawson said.
"We're going day by day," she said, adding that closing down the organization is a complex, time-consuming task.
Bailey said in November that the center's attempts to expand beyond Howard County amid a down economy overextended the group's finances, leading to its demise. County officials and others have been scrambling to continue treatment for 88 clients being served at the time of the closing.