- Associated Press - Sunday, June 7, 2015

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - A roadside assistance service using state money could save up to $8.4 million over three years if the Division of Highways took control of it and made other changes, according to a state audit.

On Sunday, Legislative Auditor Aaron Allred’s office released the audit of the Courtesy Patrol to a legislative panel.

The audit says Citizens Conservation Corps of West Virginia, a nonprofit which is mainly tasked with running that program, received $23.9 million in state money from fiscal year 2006 through 2014.

The audit suggests letting the Division of Highways run the program, using Temporary Assistance for Needy Families grants, reducing patrol hours from 16 to 10 hours a day and allowing corporate sponsorships.

Jason Webb, a lobbyist for the Citizens Conservation Corps, questioned many of the audit’s numbers and its savings projections. He said the suggested changes could actually cost more.

The audit says the highways division overpaid the Citizens Conservation Corps by $96,100. It also says it is illegal to let non-state employees drive state cars, as the Courtesy Patrol does.

The division potentially increased costs by replacing Courtesy Patrol vehicles and renewing contracts at an increased rate. It also expedited payments through the state auditor’s office and paid the group before the service period ended, the audit says.

It says the division didn’t monitor fuel spending or use traffic data to manage scheduling.

The auditor suggests that the Division of Highways evaluate the program and report back to the state legislative Post Audits Subcommittee during its October 2015 meeting.

Last legislative session, the state House of Delegates rejected an amendment to defund the Courtesy Patrol program.

The program patrols about 810 highway miles from 3 p.m. to 7 a.m., seven days a week. The group’s website says it employs former welfare recipients as drivers and provides them continuing education.

Citizens Conservation Corps has also been under scrutiny for the salaries it pays its top officials, which totaled about $642,000 in 2012, according to IRS filings. Chief Executive Director Robert Martin received $349,250 that year, about $100,000 higher than his 2011 salary.

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