Braille Monitor                                                                  October 1985

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Blind Organization's Chief Criticizes State Programs

by Paul Nyden
Investigative Reporter

(The following article appeared in the August 23, 1985, Charleston (West Virginia) Gazette, It points up the problems we often have with governmental and private agencies. It also points up the reason for our sometimes being labeled "militant." We can and do serve as a watchdog on programs established to give the blind service, and we do not hesitate to speak out to expose sloppy or illegal conduct. No one likes to be placed in the spotlight of public exposure--especially, if everybody else except one group is quiet and not rocking the boat. Dick Porter, the President of the National Federation of the Blind of West Virginia, speaks his mind. Here is the article as it appeared in the Charleston Gazette.)

Some state programs designed to assist blind West Virginians are being mismanaged, charges Richard Porter, president of the West Virginia chapter of the National Federation of the Blind. Porter spoke before the organization's 32nd annual state convention held in Huntington last weekend.

Porter asked for the "transfer or resignation" of Richard Collett, chief of services for the West Virginia Society for the Blind's vending programs.

Porter also wants Earl W. Wolfe, director of the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, to demand Collett's removal.

Blind workers operate all vending machines in interstate highway rest stops. Porter is upset because "blind people are paid only $4.50 an hour, while Department of Highways workers at those same rest stops earn between $8.50 and $9.00 an hour. And, in order for blind people to have their machines, they have to do janitorial work as well."

The vending program would generate more money if the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation negotiated a better contract, says Porter. "Saccor Machines now leases machines for $115 a month. But the Lance Corporation has offered to furnish vending machines for $20 a month, including maintenance."

Vending machines are presently located in 16 rest stops on 1-64, 1-70, 1-77, I79, and 1-81, according to Bill F. Gardner, an assistant DVR director.

The Society for the Blind also has a contract with DVR, says Gardner, to provide paperwork and bookkeeping services for blind vendors in the state Capitol and other public buildings.

Porter also criticized Collett for doing nothing about a check Porter says was issued "either illegally or unethically." Collett is on vacation and unavailable for comment.

The check controversy involves John R. Adkins, former director of the Appalachian Center for Independent Living.

ACIL is a federally funded organization with offices at 1427 Lee St. in Charleston--a house owned by the Society for the Blind. Adkins, a quadriplegic, resigned his position in the wake of this controversy.

Porter believes "local and federal officials took no action on this matter because the individual involved was severely disabled and the money involved was not mega-bucks."

The Multi-County Community Action Against Poverty Inc. issued a $750 check on Sept. 30, 1983, to the West Virginia Society for the Blind, says Porter, to construct a cement ramp at 1427 Lee St.

Multi-CAAP's check, however, was not deposited in the Society's account, but in the ACIL Foundation's account.

Adkins then issued the West Virginia Society for the Blind a $350 check (numbered 139) to pay for ramp construction, $150 of which went to D and D Construction--a company Porter says is nonexistent. Adkins issued a second $400 check (numbered 140) to himself, according to Porter.

Adkins obscured this $400 transaction, says Porter, by creating a photostatic copy of a $400 check (also numbered 140) to the Claxton Bakery in Georgia, which makes fruitcakes sold by many charitable organizations. This check was never cashed, nor even sent to the bakery, says Porter, who was a member of ACIL's board at the time.

"That ramp was built," said Gardner Thursday, "and they paid us what we asked to build the ramp. They bought the materials. If Adkins drew more than he was supposed to, that's not our problem. This matter has already been investigated."

ACIL officials referred all questions to Multi-CAAP, which oversees the operation. Asked about Porter's comments, Multi-CAAP Executive Director Helen Beckulhimer said: "I don't know what he's talking about. I only deal with federal funds. And nothing is wrong there."

In his Huntington speech, Porter also charged, "There is a lack of administrative opportunities in state government for qualified blind persons. I feel programs created for the blind should involve qualified blind persons in their operation. West Virginia is behind many other states in this area. "