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Legislative audit is critical of Virginias tobacco commission

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Derechos Donating Member (892 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-22-11 09:53 AM
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RICHMOND A tobacco commission created to dole out hundreds of millions of dollars in Virginias most economically depressed areas spent too much money on projects that did not generate jobs or boost salaries, according to a critical legislative audit released Monday.

The long-awaited study by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission said the tobacco commission is too large, does not meet frequently enough and fails to scrutinize projects paid for with $1 billion from a legal settlement with the nations largest tobacco companies.

The Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission needs to do a better job documenting the performance of its grants in Southside and Southwest Virginia, the audit concluded. Only 11 percent of its projects can even be measured for results.

In the past decade, 1,368 grants worth $756 million have been awarded for a variety of projects, including high-speed Internet access in rural areas, walking trails and improvements to the Martinsville Speedway. About $606 million is available for future grants.

The focus of the commission is on revitalization, and if you look back on the transcripts of the discussions for economic impact, there is usually precious little, study leader Walt Smiley told members of JLARC at a meeting Monday on Capitol Square.

See also - Virginia tobacco commission sending director, two state lawmakers to France

RICHMOND Days after an audit criticized Virginias tobacco commission for its spending priorities, the state is paying more than $20,000 to send its executive director and two state lawmakers to France to recruit businesses to Virginia.

Del. Daniel W. Marshall III (R-Danville) and Sen. Frank M. Ruff Jr. (R-Mecklenburg) arrived in Paris on Monday and will leave Friday. Executive director Neal Noyes arrived Sunday and will depart June 28 for Cologne, Germany, where he will meet with company executives in town for an automotive convention until July 1.

The estimated cost for airfare, hotel and food is expected to be $21,123, according to the Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission.

It is at least the second overseas trip by members of the commission since 2001, according to the Virginia Public Access Project, which tracks money in politics. Last year, two members and Noyes spent more than $8,000 on a trip to England.
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