Audit Finds Flaws in How Roanoke Handled Funding for Gun Violence Reduction

Roanoke has steered more than $2.5 million to a gang outreach team, the police department and grants for nonprofits and churches.

Members of Roanoke's Gun Violence Prevention Commission with chairman and Vice Mayor Joe Cobb, center, meet at city hall on Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2023. The city's internal auditor last week released a review of how the city spent funds on programs designed to reduce gun violence. ROANOKE RAMBLER FILE PHOTO

An internal audit of Roanoke’s Gun Violence Prevention Commission found the city has failed to verify whether programs funded to reduce gun violence were effective or even occurred at all.

The 88-page audit, released Friday, outlines shortcomings in how commissioners made decisions and city staff monitored the progress of grant-funded programs. One of the more serious findings said the city could not prove it met federal regulations for monitoring how outside agencies used government pandemic relief funds — a claim that city leaders denied.

Roanoke has earmarked more than $2.5 million for efforts to tamp down on an increase in shootings. Money has gone to a gang outreach team, the police department and grants for nonprofits and churches.

“It’s not a good report for the Gun Violence Prevention Commission,” Mayor Sherman Lea said Monday. “I am concerned with some things that happened.”

Some City Council members have criticized the commission, chaired by Vice Mayor Joe Cobb, over a perceived opacity in its funding decisions and whether those programs have been effective. Council members in February tasked Drew Harmon, the Council-appointed municipal auditor, with investigating how money recommended by the commission was spent.