Florence flooding slowly envelops South Carolina homes
By JEFFREY COLLINS
Wednesday, September 26
GEORGETOWN, S.C. (AP) — A week ago, firefighters in Conway went to a neighborhood and told surprised residents their houses would flood from Hurricane Florence even though they had never had water in them before.
On Monday and Tuesday, those same firefighters checked on those same neighborhoods with maps that detailed each of the nearly 1,000 homes that could expect to be inundated.
“It’s kind of playing out exactly like we forecast,” Conway Fire Chief Le Hendrick said.
Twelve days after the once-fierce hurricane arrived on the coast, and more than a week after it blew north and dissipated, rivers swollen by its relentless rains are still flooding homes and businesses in their paths as they make their way to the sea.
The slow-moving disaster has allowed forecasters to pinpoint exactly who will flood. There have been few rescues or surprises in South Carolina — just black, reeking water slowly seeping in and even more slowly receding.
“You find yourself sitting around a lot and thinking, ‘What if,’ or, ‘I wonder what things are like right now,’” said Vivian Chestnut, who left her home in Conway a week ago and might not get back until well into October. “And wondering what you are going to find when you finally get back.”
The Waccamaw River, which flows through the city of 23,000, was expected to crest on Wednesday at 21.7 feet (6.6 meters). It surpassed the previous record high of 17.9 feet (5.5 meters) set in 2016 by Hurricane Matthew on Friday.
The waterway was not expected to drop below 18 feet (5.5 meters) or so until sometime next week. The river floods at 11 feet (3.4 meters).
All that water is making its way to Georgetown, where five different rivers reach the sea. Officials there said the worst of the flooding would start Wednesday and last until Thursday, likely leaving only one highway into the city.
And if that weren’t bad enough, more weather was forming off the coast in a hurricane season that still has two months to go. National Hurricane Center forecasters watching a low pressure area about 200 miles (320 kilometers) south of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, said it could become a tropical depression as it approaches the coast before moving quickly to the north.
While it will likely dump some additional rain on the Florence-battered city of Wilmington, it wasn’t expected to be significant enough to worsen the flooding.
“It shouldn’t put much of a dent in the rivers,” said Reid Hawkins, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Wilmington.
Officials at South Carolina’s state-owned utility were still warily monitoring two coal-ash ponds near Conway. Santee Cooper officials said floodwater from the Waccamaw River had already made it into one pond, but most of the ash had already been removed from it during an earlier cleanup project.
The river is likely to flood the second pond soon, but the utility promised it has taken steps to lessen the environmental impact, such as installing silt fencing and a floating environmental containment boom.
Not far from the ash ponds, engineers are keeping an eye on U.S. Highway 501, the main link to Myrtle Beach. Water is now touching a temporary barrier of sand and plastic that has been erected to keep water off the bridge. Called the Lifeline, the temporary wall will remain effective if the water doesn’t rise more than an additional 5 feet (1.5 meters) from its current level, according to the state Department of Transportation.
In North Carolina the rivers have stopped rising, but the recovery process is really just beginning. In rural Jones County, between Kinston and New Bern, two of the county’s six schools will have to be demolished after floodwaters left mold and mildew in their wake, School Superintendent Michael Bracy said..
Associated Press writers Jonathan Drew, Gary D. Robertson and Alex Derosier in Raleigh; Meg Kinnard in Columbia, South Carolina; and AP Science Writer Seth Borenstein in Washington contributed to this report.
Severe storms to threaten millions in northeastern US at midweek
Because the midweek storms will threaten over 100,000 square miles of land in the most populous region of the nation, over 60 million residents will need to monitor and heed the latest severe weather watches and warnings to minimize the risk of injury or even death..
AccuWeather Global Weather Center – September 26, 2018 – Summerlike warmth and humidity surging back into the Ohio Valley and Northeast will set the stage for a severe weather event at midweek.
A rapidly intensifying storm system tracking from the western Great Lakes region to eastern Canada spanning into Wednesday will be responsible for triggering the violent storms.
Unseasonably cold and even winterlike air behind the storm system will clash with the moist, muggy air in place across the eastern half of the nation. This collision of seasons provides the fuel needed to spark widespread, destructive storms.
The severe weather first swept through part of the Midwest, including the Chicagoland area, on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, severe thunderstorms will be possible from Montreal, Canada, down through Syracuse, New York, with severe weather approaching the I-95 corridor by Wednesday evening.
The main threats from Wednesday’s storms will be flooding downpours and damaging winds. However, a couple of isolated tornadoes cannot be ruled out.
Severe Thunderstorm Risk
Because the midweek storms will threaten over 100,000 square miles of land in the most populous region of the nation, over 60 million residents will need to monitor and heed the latest severe weather watches and warnings to minimize the risk of injury or even death.
“The greatest risk to lives and property may come from the potential for falling trees, due to the saturated state of the ground,” according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.
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Fall Color Ready to Transform the Forest Canopies with Brilliant Colors
Fall color reports begin Oct. 3
COLUMBUS, OH – As the days grow shorter and the nights a little cooler, signs of autumn will begin to emerge. Ohio’s forest canopies will soon begin their color transformation to strong reds, vivid yellows and bold oranges that encourage people to visit the Buckeye State to catch that first glimpse of color. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), in partnership with TourismOhio, will help people find the best locations to view the changing colors throughout the fall.
“The fall color season provides Ohioans with a great opportunity to enjoy our state parks, forests and nature preserves,” ODNR Director James Zehringer said. “Across the state, communities host festivals and events that welcome the changing season and provide added incentive to get out and enjoy Ohio’s fall color season.”
Forecasting fall color is not always easy because several variables must be taken into account, such as sunlight, temperature, wind and rainfall, when calculating the brilliance and longevity of Ohio’s autumn color. This fall, according to ODNR Fall Color Forester Greg Smith, we are expecting that peak leaf color should be appearing in the northern third of Ohio in mid to late October, late October for the central third and the southern third at the end of October and beginning of November. The current forecast, along with informative videos, are available at fallcolor.ohiodnr.gov.
New this year, ODNR will be highlighting various regions of the state and bringing the fall color to people from those regions directly each week. The fall color reports will begin on Wednesday, Oct. 3, and will continue each Wednesday throughout the fall color season.
People interested in finding out where to find most eye-catching leaves throughout the upcoming fall color season should check out fallcolor.ohiodnr.gov, Ohio’s official guide to the changing colors. This website includes:
Weekly color updates and information to help plan a fall color adventure.
Weekly videos from ODNR naturalists highlighting fall color hot spots around the state.
Links to fall activities, scenic road trips, unique overnight accommodations at Ohio State Parks and more.
Fall is a distinctive season in Ohio with an identifiable color palette of reds, oranges and yellows; cooler temperatures; and aromas and tastes of autumn’s harvest from apples to pumpkins. It’s such a fun, vibrant few months to enjoy time with those closest to you that it feels like a holiday — or perhaps a Falliday! To help visitors find those special autumn activities in Ohio, the Office of TourismOhio has created a new landing page, ohio.org/fallidays.
ODNR and TourismOhio encourage people to take fall color photos and upload them to social media using the hashtag #OhioFall18 and #FallidaysinOhio. Follow @ohiodnr and @OhioFindItHere on Twitter, Ohio Department of Natural Resources and Ohio. Find it Here. on Facebook and @ohiodnr, @ohstateparks and @ohiogram on Instagram to see more fall color photos.
Ohio State Parks is also having a photo contest this fall. Help us highlight the best of the great outdoors in a variety of categories for a chance to win great prizes! Enter today at ohiostateparksphotocontest.com.
ODNR ensures a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all. Visit the ODNR website at ohiodnr.gov.
TourismOhio, operating within the state of Ohio’s Development Services Agency, works to ensure Ohio is positioned as a destination of choice, enriching lives through authentic travel experiences. The branding Ohio. Find It Here. supports Ohio’s $43 billion tourism industry. For more, visit ohio.org.
Scientists have been drilling into the ocean floor for 50 years – here’s what they’ve found so far
September 26, 2018
Professor of Earth & Environmental Sciences, Wesleyan University
Suzanne O’Connell receives funding from the United States Advisory Committee for Scientific Ocean Drilling.
Wesleyan University provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
It’s stunning but true that we know more about the surface of the moon than about the Earth’s ocean floor. Much of what we do know has come from scientific ocean drilling – the systematic collection of core samples from the deep seabed. This revolutionary process began 50 years ago, when the drilling vessel Glomar Challenger sailed into the Gulf of Mexico on August 11, 1968 on the first expedition of the federally funded Deep Sea Drilling Project.
I went on my first scientific ocean drilling expedition in 1980, and since then have participated in six more expeditions to locations including the far North Atlantic and Antaractica’s Weddell Sea. In my lab, my students and I work with core samples from these expeditions. Each of these cores, which are cylinders 31 feet long and 3 inches wide, is like a book whose information is waiting to be translated into words. Holding a newly opened core, filled with rocks and sediment from the Earth’s ocean floor, is like opening a rare treasure chest that records the passage of time in Earth’s history.
Over a half-century, scientific ocean drilling has proved the theory of plate tectonics, created the field of paleoceanography and redefined how we view life on Earth by revealing an enormous variety and volume of life in the deep marine biosphere. And much more remains to be learned.
Scientists have expanded human knowledge by drilling core samples from the world’s ocean basins, but their work is far from done.
Two key innovations made it possible for research ships to take core samples from precise locations in the deep oceans. The first, known as dynamic positioning, enables a 471-foot ship to stay fixed in place while drilling and recovering cores, one on top of the next, often in over 12,000 feet of water.
Anchoring isn’t feasible at these depths. Instead, technicians drop a torpedo-shaped instrument called a transponder over the side. A device called a transducer, mounted on the ship’s hull, sends an acoustic signal to the transponder, which replies. Computers on board calculate the distance and angle of this communication. Thrusters on the ship’s hull maneuver the vessel to stay in exactly the same location, countering the forces of currents, wind and waves.
Another challenge arises when drill bits have to be replaced mid-operation. The ocean’s crust is composed of igneous rock that wears bits down long before the desired depth is reached.
When this happens, the drill crew brings the entire drill pipe to the surface, mounts a new drill bit and returns to the same hole. This requires guiding the pipe into a funnel shaped re-entry cone, less than 15 feet wide, placed in the bottom of the ocean at the mouth of the drilling hole. The process, which was first accomplished in 1970, is like lowering a long strand of spaghetti into a quarter-inch-wide funnel at the deep end of an Olympic swimming pool.
Confirming plate tectonics
When scientific ocean drilling began in 1968, the theory of plate tectonics was a subject of active debate. One key idea was that new ocean crust was created at ridges in the seafloor, where oceanic plates moved away from each other and magma from earth’s interior welled up between them. According to this theory, crust should be new material at the crest of ocean ridges, and its age should increase with distance from the crest.
The only way to prove this was by analyzing sediment and rock cores. In the winter of 1968-1969, the Glomar Challenger drilled seven sites in the South Atlantic Ocean to the east and west of the Mid-Atlantic ridge. Both the igneous rocks of the ocean floor and overlying sediments aged in perfect agreement with the predictions, confirming that ocean crust was forming at the ridges and plate tectonics was correct.
Reconstructing earth’s history
The ocean record of Earth’s history is more continuous than geologic formations on land, where erosion and redeposition by wind, water and ice can disrupt the record. In most ocean locations sediment is laid down particle by particle, microfossil by microfossil, and remains in place, eventually succumbing to pressure and turning into rock.
Microfossils (plankton) preserved in sediment are beautiful and informative, even though some are smaller than the width of a human hair. Like larger plant and animal fossils, scientists can use these delicate structures of calcium and silicon to reconstruct past environments.
Thanks to scientific ocean drilling, we know that after an asteroid strike killed all non-avian dinosaurs 66 million years ago, new life colonized the crater rim within years, and within 30,000 years a full ecosystem was thriving. A few deep ocean organisms lived right through the meteorite impact.
Ocean drilling has also shown that ten million years later, a massive discharge of carbon – probably from extensive volcanic activity and methane released from melting methane hydrates – caused an abrupt, intense warming event, or hyperthermal, called the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. During this episode, even the Arctic reached over 73 degrees Fahrenheit.
The resulting acidification of the ocean from the release of carbon into the atmosphere and ocean caused massive dissolution and change in the deep ocean ecosystem.
This episode is an impressive example of the impact of rapid climate warming. The total amount of carbon released during the PETM is estimated to be about equal to the amount that humans will release if we burn all of Earth’s fossil fuel reserves. Yet, an important difference is that the carbon released by the volcanoes and hydrates was at a much slower rate than we are currently releasing fossil fuel. Thus we can expect even more dramatic climate and ecosystem changes unless we stop emitting carbon.
Finding life in ocean sediments
Scientific ocean drilling has also shown that there are roughly as many cells in marine sediment as in the ocean or in soil. Expeditions have found life in sediments at depths over 8000 feet; in seabed deposits that are 86 million years old; and at temperatures above 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
Today scientists from 23 nations are proposing and conducting research through the International Ocean Discovery Program, which uses scientific ocean drilling to recover data from seafloor sediments and rocks and to monitor environments under the ocean floor. Coring is producing new information about plate tectonics, such as the complexities of ocean crust formation, and the diversity of life in the deep oceans.
This research is expensive, and technologically and intellectually intense. But only by exploring the deep sea can we recover the treasures it holds and better understand its beauty and complexity.
Cosby to serve sentence at Philly-area prison
By MARYCLAIRE DALE and MICHAEL R. SISAK
Wednesday, September 26
Bill Cosby spent his first night in prison alone, in a single cell near the infirmary, as he began his three-to-10-year sentence for sexual assault.
Corrections officials announced Wednesday that Cosby — now known as Inmate No. NN7687 — will serve his sentence at SCI Phoenix, a new state prison about 20 miles from the gated estate where a jury concluded he drugged and molested a woman in 2004. The $400 million lockup opened two months ago and can hold 3,830 inmates.
Cosby will meet with prison medical staff, psychologists and others as the staff assesses his needs. Under prison policy, the 81-year-old comedian will be allowed phone calls and visits and will get a chance to exercise.
The prison’s long-term goal is to place Cosby in the general population, officials said.
“We are taking all of the necessary precautions to ensure Mr. Cosby’s safety and general welfare in our institution,” Corrections Secretary John Wetzel said in a statement.
As Cosby began adjusting to life behind bars, his family and publicists vowed he’ll appeal his conviction on three felony sexual assault counts after the first celebrity trial of the #MeToo era.
Calling Cosby “one of the greatest civil rights leaders in the United States for over the past 50 years,” spokesman Andrew Wyatt on Tuesday decried the trial as the “most sexist and racist” in the country’s history.
The judge, prosecutor and jury saw it differently.
“No one is above the law. And no one should be treated disproportionately because of who they are, where they live, or even their wealth, celebrity or philanthropy,” Montgomery County Judge Steven O’Neill said in sentencing Cosby to an above-average sentence.
Cosby’s defense team has raised the racial issue before, in 2016, before quickly scrapping it.
“We prosecute where the evidence takes us and that was done in this case,” District Attorney Kevin Steele said Tuesday.
After his first trial ended in a hung jury, Cosby was convicted in April of drugging and sexually assaulting Temple University women’s basketball administrator Andrea Constand. He has faced a barrage of similar accusations from more than 60 women over the past five decades, but Constand’s case is the only one that went to trial.
In a statement submitted to the court, Constand, 45, said the assault and Cosby’s subsequent attacks on her character had crushed her spirit, adding: “We may never know the full extent of his double life as a sexual predator, but his decades-long reign of terror as a serial rapist is over.”
Prosecutor Kristen Feden said Constand told her she was happy with the sentence.
“I always look for my strength in the victims, and Andrea Constand was amazing,” Feden said on NBC’s “Today” show Wednesday. “Her courage and her strength was enough for me to say, ‘Let’s keep going.’”
Women’s advocates hailed Cosby’s sentence as a landmark #MeToo moment.
“Bill Cosby seeing the inside of a prison cell sends a strong message that predators — no matter who they are, from Hollywood to Wall Street to the Supreme Court — can no longer be protected at the expense of victims,” said Sonia Ossorio, president of the National Organization for Women of New York.
Cosby’s lawyers asked that he be allowed to remain free on bail while he appeals his conviction, but the judge ordered him locked up immediately, saying that “he could quite possibly be a danger to the community.”
Cosby — who is legally blind and uses a cane — removed his watch, tie and jacket and walked out in a white dress shirt and red suspenders, his hands cuffed in front of him.
Cosby must serve the minimum of three years before becoming eligible for parole.
Cosby’s punishment, which also included a $25,000 fine, came at the end of a two-day hearing at which the judge declared him a “sexually violent predator” — a designation that subjects him to monthly counseling for the rest of his life and requires that neighbors and schools be notified of his whereabouts. A psychologist for the state testified that Cosby appears to have a mental disorder characterized by an uncontrollable urge to have sex with women without their consent.
Constand testified that Cosby gave her what she thought were herbal pills to ease stress, then penetrated her with his fingers as she lay immobilized on a couch. Cosby claimed the encounter was consensual, and his lawyers branded her a “con artist” who framed the comedian to get a big payday — a $3.4 million settlement she received over a decade ago.
The AP does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they come forward publicly, which Constand and other accusers have done.
Five other accusers took the stand at the trial as part of an effort by prosecutors to portray Cosby — once known as America’s Dad for his role on the top-rated “Cosby Show” in the 1980s — as a serial predator.
Constand went to police a year after waking up in a fog at Cosby’s estate, her clothes askew, only to have the district attorney pass on the case. Another DA reopened the file a decade later and charged the TV star after stand-up comic Hannibal Buress’ riff about Cosby’s being a rapist prompted other women to come forward, and after a federal judge, acting on a request from The Associated Press, unsealed some of Cosby’s startling, decade-old testimony in Constand’s related civil suit.
In his testimony, Cosby described sexual encounters with a string of actresses, models and other young women and talked about obtaining quaaludes to give to those he wanted to sleep with.
Associated Press writer Claudia Lauer contributed to this report. For more coverage, visit: https://apnews.com/tag/BillCosby
Want to prevent sexual harassment and assault? Start by teaching kids
Updated September 25, 2018
Professor of Social Work, Wayne State University
Associate Professor, Wayne State University
Post-Doctoral Fellow in School of Social Work, Wayne State University
Poco Kernsmith receives funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Joanne Smith-Darden receives funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Megan Hicks does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Wayne State University provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
In the wake of sexual assault and harassment allegations involving Brett Kavanaugh, Harvey Weinstein, Bill O’Reilly and others, Americans may be learning just how prevalent sexual violence is in our society.
So, what can be done to prevent it?
We have studied how family, school and neighborhood environments influence violent youth behavior. Building from this knowledge, we are working with schools to develop prevention programs.
Here’s what we’ve learned.
Reducing the risks
Decreasing sexual violence means investing in prevention programs that address the causes of sexually abusive behavior. The majority of prevention programs aimed at teens and young adults often focus on teaching girls and women how to decrease their risk of being assaulted, with strategies such as watching out for each other at parties or being aware of their surroundings. Some include self-defense strategies.
Programs like these are generally found to be ineffective because they fail to address the realities that most assaults are committed by someone known and trusted. Harassment is commonly committed by someone in power, such as a teacher or supervisor. These types of programs may be able to reduce some risks, but real prevention needs to focus on the only person who can actually prevent harassment: the potential perpetrator.
It’s everyone’s problem
Increasingly, programs address this shortcoming by encouraging bystanders to challenge harassing behavior and jokes to help promote healthy, positive norms. For example, programs like Green Dot and Bringing in the Bystander help teach high school and college students to step in to prevent violence or help someone who has been assaulted. In 2014, President Obama and Vice President Biden launched the It’s On Us campaign to encourage bystanders to get involved. It provided real actions for college students to help protect their friends and neighbors, such as intervening when someone is harassing another person, providing support to someone who has been victimized or refusing to laugh at hurtful jokes or comments.
However, programs such as these face an uphill battle. Youth are exposed daily to the pervasive and nearly invisible ways that our society accepts and even condones sexually abusive behavior.
For example, as toddlers and preschoolers, young children are taught to ignore their personal boundaries of their bodies. Parents might pressure their children to hug a family member when they don’t want to. Instead, family members should teach children to talk honestly and assertively about how they do or do not want to be touched.
Fathers commonly joke about protecting our daughters from predatory boys who want to date them, because “we know how boys are.” This teaches both sons and daughters that boys are mindless aggressors and girls are helpless victims.
Parents are an important part of teaching positive attitudes and skills for healthy relationships, but few programs exist to teach them how to talk about these difficult subjects.
What about men?
Some programs, such as Coaching Boys into Men, seek to engage men to see sexual violence as more than a “women’s problem” and understand their role preventing violence. Programs for men build on bystander interventions and encourage youth to challenge traditional expectations of masculinity that accept, or even promote, violence. As men’s perception that they are not masculine enough has been associated with increased rates of sexual violence, it is essential to provide role models of nonviolent masculinity.
However, prevention programs cannot ignore that 23 percent of boys and men experience sexual violence or harassment over their lifetime. Although rates of being raped or sexually assaulted are lower for men, males report experiencing sexual coercion, in which they are pressured or manipulated into sexual activity they don’t want, at rates that are nearly equal to women.
Prevention needs to begin in early childhood and continue for life. Teaching skills to prevent violence starts with learning empathy for others, communication skills and problem solving. It involves promoting healthy sexual behavior through sex education focused on respect for self and others, communication and consent. Programs that empower youth to make positive changes in their communities show promise for preventing sexual violence.
School boards, employers and politicians have the power to strengthen and consistently apply policies to keep schools, workplaces and communities safe by holding abusers accountable for their actions. Leaders, and all bystanders, can refuse to hide or tolerate abusive behavior. Lastly, we can support services for both male and female victims that reduce the harm of these traumatic experiences.
Sexual abuse is not just a “women’s issue.” Men and women play a significant role in prevention. Acknowledging sexual assault as a community-wide problem that impacts all persons regardless of gender is vital to preventing sexual assault.
Thanks for the article.
There is no doubt in my mind that humans have a natural/instinctive modesty that makes discussing sexual matters extremely difficult. This difficulty extends from the personal all the way through to the academic.
We are not, on the whole, easy and articulate about our own sexuality. We couldn’t be because we are not innately self knowing; it is something we need to learn about ourselves. The evolution of language has not produced clear verbal communication about sex and one surmises it couldn’t. Intentions and desires of all sorts are subtle and indefinite and have to be approached cautiously.
The remark: – “as toddlers and preschoolers, young children are taught to ignore their personal boundaries of their bodies” is easy to misread. Plainly young children do ignor the personal boundaries of their bodies and it is not because they have been taught to do so. To actually teach the opposite is shockingly inhuman.
The idea that we should be “promoting healthy sexual behavior through sex education” is problematic for two reasons. One, we are not good at discussing sexuality. And two, it is not clear who should be doing the educating. It is not much of a solution if we feel that we ourselves don’t have to do the educating but someone should. And of course, not everyone supports sex education.
The issue of modesty cripples our approach to the problem. It is overwhelmingly focussed on what one shouldn’t do. We say “Don’t do this” rather than “Do this”. The consequence is that critics of sexual behaviours can appear prude and puritanical: – critics of sexual behaviours can come across as promoting abstinence as the alternative. This is fine if abstinence is a healthy sexual behaviour but my understanding is that it is not.
Instead of reading about unacceptable male sexual behaviours it would be refreshing to read an outline of what is considered to be a healthy lifetime male sexual history, for those of high status and low status, desirable and not so desirable.
This is an interesting listen: –
Agreed. We can reach K-12 students and families with student-centered presentations about sexual harassment/violence. One example is the free online video “Sexual Harassment: Not in Our School!” and accompanying resource materials produced by the national nonprofit Stop Sexual Assault in Schools at ssais.org/video.
Fraud can scuttle nonprofits but the bigger and older ones fare better
September 26, 2018
Associate Professor, Department of Accounting, University of Dayton
Associate Professor, University of Dayton
The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
University Of Dayton provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
After a director of the Fairmont-Marion County Food Pantry embezzled more than US$50,000, it had to close for two months in 2009 – leaving 1,200 West Virginians who depended on it in a temporary lurch.
The effects of this kind of malfeasance may appear straightforward. Charities caught committing fraud become untrustworthy in their donors’ eyes. Without money, they no longer can serve the public.
That food pantry overcame that crisis and reopened. But as scholars who research nonprofit fraud, we wanted to discover what long-term consequences befall organizations that are supposed to do good things when some of their staff are caught doing bad things.
The frequency of fraud
First, we identified charities that had committed a publicized act of fraud. Then we scoured public filings, news stories and social media for evidence of life after the fraud.
We found that 1 in 4 of these nonprofits closed down for good within three years. That is significantly higher than the overall 4 to 16 percent rate at which nonprofits became defunct during the same time period – the years 2000 to 2012.
Once we saw the big picture, we investigated the factors driving this outcome. We wanted to know if it had to do with the structure of the organizations, the people who commit fraud or the type of fraud committed.
As it turns out, it was a little bit of each.
Other researchers had already documented that newer organizations are more likely to shut down than older ones. Similarly, smaller organizations are more likely to fold than larger ones.
Some downsides to being a newbie
As we explained in the journal Nonprofit Management & Leadership, we found that these concepts hold true with nonprofits after fraud is publicized. Older organizations and ones with bigger budgets and more assets were more likely to survive fraud that had come to the public’s attention than their newer, smaller counterparts.
Consider the fate of the United Way in D.C. The former head of that large nonprofit, which was raising more than $90 million annually, stole almost $500,000 from it. After this wrongdoing came to light in 2002, the organization scaled back some services but continued to exist.
Why? Organizational theory experts Michael Hannan and John Freeman have identified several reasons.
Notably, the leaders and staff of newer organizations tend to lack skills and experience, which leads to problems with reliability and accountability. Newer nonprofits may also lack the structure, systems and routines that older organizations typically possess.
Smaller organizations have the disadvantage of being less able to withstand financial shocks than their larger counterparts because they operate on smaller budgets and lack deep pockets. They may also have trouble fundraising, and often find it difficult to compete for good employees. These struggles can make it harder to recover from a crisis.
Who done it to whom
It also matters what type of fraud took place.
When the nonprofit committed a fraud against the public, the organization was less likely to survive than in cases when an employee or a volunteer preyed on the nonprofit.
When an executive-level employee at the nonprofit committed the fraud, the nonprofit was less likely to survive than if a lower-level employee did it.
For example, the Virginia-based nonprofit Domestic Values Education and Support Inc., a domestic violence counseling group, was forced to shut down following the theft of funds by the organization’s chief financial officer.
Senior managers have easier access to the organization’s funds, financing and official paperwork, potentially making the fraud they commit consequential enough to lead to the organization’s ruin.
What is a nonprofit to do?
Of course, charities can’t instantly become older and larger to avoid risk. However, newer and smaller nonprofits can model the behavior of their older and larger counterparts by adopting fraud prevention and governance measures.
For example, a recent study by Young-Joo Lee, an expert in public and nonprofit management, finds that older and larger nonprofits are more likely to adopt good governance policies.
For example, adopting strict rules regarding the approval of expenditures, and limiting who gets access to cash, can sign checks or use an organizational credit card reduce opportunities to commit fraud.
Other best practices include improving the oversight of personnel screening during the hiring process and supervising staff members well.
We also recommend that nonprofits adopt whistle-blower policies, establish tip hotlines and give all employees the chance to be in-house watchdogs if they spot wrongdoing. It also helps to have actively involved boards of directors that include trustees with enough financial expertise to keep an eye on the nonprofit’s managers.