Crooks in the road

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 9, 2004

On a cool Fall evening, there’s nothing like curling up in a comfortable chair with a well-written indictment.

The United States District Court indictment I read last night didn’t have a dull passage, as it’s 51 pages unfolded a story of forgery, theft, mail fraud and perjury that left me breathless with the audacity of the protagonist in this crime thriller, former Congressman Frank Ballance and his sole control of the John Hyman Foundation.

The crimes were so plentiful and repetitive, his methods so clumsy and obvious we can expect the plea bargaining efforts of Ballance’s lawyers will be more pleading than bargaining.

Here’s an item of local interest, quoted directly from the text of the indictment:

&uot;Throughout each year, but most commonly during Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons, Frank Ballance made it a point to make what he referred to as &uot;mini-grants&uot; to various churches and other organizations.

One of the largest recipients of Frank Ballance’s mini-grants was Nebo Baptist Church and its affiliates.&uot;

Following this text, a chart appears showing the amount of &uot;mini-grants&uot; to Nebo church, totaling $218,500 from 1994 through 2002.

After the chart, the text continues.

&uot;In addition to the amounts given to Nebo from the Hyman Foundation, Frank Ballance also secured special appropriations to Nebo of $100,000 for the fiscal year ending 2001, and $75,000 for the fiscal year ending 2002.

(Editor’s note: This brings Nebo’s total received due to Ballance’s influence to $393,500, not the $70,000 amount previously reported.)

Because Frank Ballance arranged for such appropriations to be made as a line item charged against the NC-DOC’s (North Carolina Department of Corrections) General Fund, there was no specific reference to Nebo in the NC-DOC’s budget.

Instead, the entity receiving the funds is described generally as a ‘community program in Northampton County that works with substance abuse offenders.’

Despite this vague provision, the NC-DOC was informed that the funds were intended solely for Nebo.

&uot; On December 31, 2002, Frank Ballance executed a Hyman Foundation check for $25,000 payable to ‘Nebo Roads Program.’

In the memorandum portion of the check, Frank Ballance wrote ‘mini-grant/loan.’

Frank Ballance then informed the Pastor of Nebo (Robert Holloman), who was about to succeed Frank Ballance as a member of the North Carolina Senate, that if the Nebo Pastor were able to get a seat on the JPS Subcommittee and write his own continuing appropriation for Nebo, the $25,000 payment would be considered a loan to be repaid by Nebo.

Frank Ballance then informed the Nebo Pastor that if a continuing appropriation was not provided to Nebo, Nebo could consider the $25,000 payment as a grant from the Hyman Foundation.

&uot;The Nebo Pastor was able to get appointed to a seat on the JPS Subcommittee, but was unable to secure an appropriation to Nebo, due in large part to the negative publicity surrounding the North Carolina State Auditor’s audit of the Hyman Foundation.&uot;

While Nebo is known to have run a substance abuse program, which has been praised by some, it makes one curious to see a full, accurate accounting of how nearly $400,000 in tax dollars was spent.

Last week, in an interview with Carolina Journal, Holloman told reporter Don Carrington the money was spent on &uot;drug prevention, a counselor and space for a building.&uot;

He added, &uot;It is my understanding that we have not done anything illegal or wrong.&uot;

Non-state agencies receiving state aid are required to execute a &uot;Conflict of Interest Policy,&uot; which was done by the Hyman Foundation on January 8, 1997, although the document as submitted was fraudulent, because Ballance or one of his employees forged the signature of a director.

There are at least 10 other examples of forgery cited in the indictment, including several where Ballance is named as the forger.

Most of the forgery was on documents used to request quarterly draws from the state treasurer for funds previously earmarked for the Hyman Foundation.

The indictment provides a litany of self-dealing, involving several members of Ballance’s family, most of which has been previously reported in this newspaper and others.

While we may be rid of Ballance, it appears there might be more indictments.