Grant Will Allow State’s Attorney To Focus On Elder Fraud

SNOW HILL – Substantial federal grant funding is expected to help the Worcester County State’s Attorney’s Office prevent elder fraud.

The Worcester County Commissioners this week voted to approve a request from Worcester County State’s Attorney Kris Heiser to accept a grant that will allow her to hire several new employees to support efforts to stop elder fraud. The grant comes through a unique partnership with Salisbury University.

“It’s one of a kind in the country,” Heiser said. “I’m glad to be able to ask you for this opportunity to remain committed to providing our county with additional services at no additional cost to the county taxpayers.”

Heiser approached the commissioners Tuesday seeking approval to become a subrecipient of a $1.1 million federal grant secured by Salisbury University. She said the funding would be provided to the county over two years to support the efforts of the Worcester County Vulnerable Adult Task Force.

“We created that task force in 2019, subsequently partnered with Salisbury University last year to focus intensive efforts at addressing neglect and abuse including financial abuse and neglect and fraud effecting seniors here in Worcester County,” she said.

According to a memo she sent to the commissioners, the funding will allow her office to hire seven new employees and purchase a variety of equipment, including vehicles, computers and software.

Commissioner Ted Elder asked where Heiser would house all the new employees.

“Fortunately, the program that we have developed is more field oriented so the staff that would be hired as a part of this program would be located in the field, embedded at police departments, embedded at adult protective services and also with our detective unit throughout the county,” she said. “They wouldn’t be needing office space at my office.”

Commissioner Jim Bunting asked what Heiser intended to do with the employees in two years when the grant went away.

“We plan on re-requesting the funding after the two years,” Heiser said. “If the funding is not awarded, the positions would cease to exist. But we do get to keep the equipment that’s purchased with the grant funding and the vehicles, so those would be an added benefit to Worcester County.”

Bunting said he thought the request was one that should be addressed at budget time. Commissioner Joe Mitrecic said he didn’t disagree but didn’t feel the commissioners could wait until budget time. He asked if the employees she was hiring would get health insurance and the other benefits typically provided to county employees. Heiser said they would be receiving benefits but that they’d be funded through the grant.

“We included the fringe benefits in the initial grant application because we were hopeful since it’s a federal grant we would be able to continue to reapply,” she said. “The thought was to plan ahead so we could use the grant funding on a more permanent basis.”

Mitrecic made a motion to approve Heiser’s request but said he wanted it made clear that there would be no county funds paying for the positions in the future. Commissioner Chip Bertino said there had been quite a bit of expansion at the state’s attorney’s office during the past year. He asked if Heiser was going to be asking for more positions in the next budget cycle.

“At this point I don’t anticipate asking for additional positions,” she said.

Bertino said he’d like to know more about the program.

“I also think that this is something that, though it doesn’t seem to be costing the county money should have been part of the budget process,” he said.

The commissioners voted 5-2, with Bertino and Bunting opposed, to accept the grant funding with the understanding that the county would not be funding the positions if grant funding was not available in the future.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

Alternative Text

Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.