- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 27, 2014

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - The state Department of Agriculture spent $662,000 in federal money on refrigeration upgrades at a failing farmer’s market, according to an audit.

The report follows an audit detailing problems under former Agriculture Commissioner Gus Douglass. The main issue stemmed from alleged mismanagement of money in a $5 million revolving loan program.

Legislative Auditor Aaron Allred wrote that the Inwood Farmer’s Market has lost about $100,000 annually over six consecutive years, including 2013. The Berkeley County market was awarded the grant in June 2011.

The audit also said the market was underinsured.

The administration under Walt Helmick, Douglass’ replacement, shut down the market in April and leased the building and equipment for $48,000 a year.

“If a proper cost/benefit analysis had been performed by WVDA, the analysis would have shown the savings produced by replacing the old units with more energy efficient units would not reduce energy costs enough to create a profit for the market,” the audit states.

Helmick’s administration said the market project was deemed legitimate by the former administration and state Division of Energy at the time.

The second audit detailed other instances of possible fraud and abuse. It was released in a legislative committee Tuesday.

It says the committee that oversaw the loan program didn’t comply with open meetings law. The committee didn’t open its meetings to the public, advertise the meetings or keep minutes, the audit states.

It also found several thousand dollars-worth of issues with expenses like hotel stays, conference registration, mileage and travel.

One paid for Douglass and his assistant commissioner to stay two nights in hotel rooms where Douglass’ retirement party was held.

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