Was Victims Assistance Money Misused?

By WBNG News

July 22, 2010 Updated Jun 20, 2013 at 2:22 PM EDT

Binghamton, NY (WBNG) The horrifying images from that day resonated so deep, it unleashed an outpour of generosity within the community.

And while hundreds of thousands of dollars were collected by various agencies, it took months before all the money was given to those affected.

Action News Reporter Reed Buterbaugh is at the live desk to break down the controversy over those funds.

Catholic Charities was at the forefront, helping survivors and families of those who died in a time of need.

But after it combined its funds with other charities.

More than $150,000 was left unused.

"The intention was really only to do good and help people," said Lori Accardi, Executive Director for Catholic Charities. "It's much easier to have a specific need presented."

"It's not compensation," said Dan Smolnik, who was part of a committee that determined how the funds were allocated. "This is, if you will, a going forward system, an enabling system."

He created a formula, the first of its kind.

It took into account factors, like the loss of income and whether an individual died or was wounded.

"These experiences are heart-wrenching and it's natural to be swayed in how you evaluate the fairness of your process and how it might affect a situation you find more compelling," Smolnik said.

"One gentleman got $4,200 and lived and my wife was shot to death and I was given a check for 2,673.02," said David Marsland.

Marsland is not alone.

Many survivors received checks greater than families who had lost someone.

The number of dependents weighed heavily in how much money someone received.

Even for those who were unwounded.

Marsland's wife, Hong Xiu, sent over $5,000 back to family in China before she died.

"They didn't have the imagination to realize that people who are foreign born come here to support their parents," Marsland said.

Repeated inquiries about how the committee came to its decisions remained unanswered for months.

Smolnik and committee to insulate the process, by designating each beneficiary with a number, so they could remain anonymous.

"They didn't have the moral courage to sit down with us and address what it was," Marsland said. "They were afraid we were going to tell them sob stories."

The committee's system used data compiled by case workers at the Crime Victims' Assistance Center.

More than $300,000 was raised by various charities for victim relief.

The large sum shows just how large the community's commitment was to getting victims back on the road to recovery.

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