April 12, 2011; Source: Pilotonline.com | It's too late to stop payment on bonus checks awarded to its key employees, so instead a Norfolk, Va., anti-poverty agency has been ordered by the state to send the money back. The Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development made public on Tuesday a letter it sent ordering the Southeastern Tidewater Opportunity Project, ironically known as STOP, to "return a check made payable to the Treasurer of Virginia in the amount of $104,505.09.”

Money for the bonuses came out of a federally funded home weatherization program, which the group also was criticized for managing poorly. More so, the payback request is just one more of a growing tale of woe about the agency. Described by the Virginia Pilot as "financially troubled," STOP last February shut down 31 Head Start preschool centers. Even though it operated those units under an $11.6 million federal grant, the agency claimed it had run out of money and couldn't meet its March payroll.

How then will it return the bonuses, which the Department of Housing and Community Development said were not “reasonable based on the amount, percentage and the staff that received them.” A STOP spokesman said officials will meet later to work out a repayment plan. The good news: Individuals who received the bonuses won't be ask to return any of that money.—Bruce Trachtenberg