The Missouri Valley Community Action Agency has decided not to appeal the state’s decision to recall funding for a social justice film festival held in Warrensburg in September.
MVCAA Executive Director Pam LaFrenz told The Democrat on Thursday that the group had “a very constructive and positive meeting” with Missouri Department of Social Services officials on Tuesday.
“They discussed an appeal process but we chose not to do that — I made the decision not to do that,” LaFrenz said.
The film festival project, approved for nearly $100,000 in stimulus dollars delivered through a Community Development Block Grant last year, saw its funding revoked less than 24 hours before the event was set to begin on Sept. 10. The move was prompted after state elected officials and individuals called DSS with complaints over content in some of the films to be screened, as well as the use of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus funds.
“Our meeting was very positive. There was not any kind of adversarial context. They have not changed their position — that our project exceeded the scope of the original plan.
“We are working with them on this whole issue so we can make sure and avoid any conflict like this in the future, and so we can get the funding recouped to the state,” LaFrenz said.
LaFrenz said one of the positive things to come from the situation was a more thorough review of award procedures so agencies have a better idea where they stand with funding.
She said the state is “looking at different methods to make sure they have a better understanding of projects,” and was hoping to develop better communication through each stage of projects that receive funding.
“That is not a bad idea — we are talking about taxpayer money and we want to be good stewards of that money,” LaFrenz said. “And these concerns would be a lot easier to resolve after only the first few thousand dollars has been paid out.”
LaFrenz said the CDBG was a reimbursement grant, meaning the group paid expenses and then submitted receipts to the state. The organization had been paid about $70,000 of the total award before the funding was recalled.
LaFrenz said MVCAA was still working with the state to determine exactly how the agency will pay back the money. DSS representatives indicated in September they may recover the money by reducing the amount of other awards to MVCAA to compensate for the disallowed expenses from the film festival.