State African American commission lost track of money, auditors say

The Washington Commission on African American Affairs improperly sent $258,000 to a former commissioner’s nonprofit organization over the space of six years, losing track of how the money was spent, according to a state audit released Thursday.

Contacted this week, the commission’s executive director Ed Prince said the problems were discovered in late 2012 and the organization soon revamped its procedures to ensure such irregularities would not happen again. Prince became the executive director in 2011.

“The findings are an unfortunate part of our history and all the staff and members of the Commission can do now is move forward and continue to build the public trust,” the commission responded in the state auditor’s office report released Thursday.

The state audit found that the commission did not have financial controls in place to prevent the routing of $258,000 between 2006 and 2012 to a Lacey-based nonprofit called the Northwest Institute for Leadership and Change.

The institute was run by Thelma Jackson, who had been a commissioner prior to 2006. There was no phone number listed Friday for the Northwest Institute for Leadership and Change in Lacey.

After $258,000 went into the leadership institute’s bank account, commissioners and staff did not have access to the fundsState auditors also found that there was no record of the commissioners discussing the nonprofit agreement during a meeting.

Rosalund Jenkins, who was the African American Affairs Commission’s executive director up to late 2011, told the Associated Press that she drew up the arrangement with state legal advice and said the money was raised via donations to the non-profit corporations and was never donated to the commission. She told the AP that she considered the donations to be private money.

The arrangement “was for the purpose of supporting the work of the commission that could not be done with public funds,” she told the reporter.

According to the audit, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation gave $43,500 to the commission to create a new nonprofit organization. Instead the money went to Jackson’s leadership institute. The leadership institute also spent $40,000 of that money on lobbying, which was not allowed by the grant and not reported to the State Public Disclosure Commission, according to auditors.

Also, the nonprofit also spent $50,000 on food and refreshments without the appropriate approvals and documents and about $54,000 was donated to other nonprofit organizations without the verifiable approval of the African American Affairs commissioners.

The commission itself also did not have all its documents in order, the auditors reported.

Auditors also could not find contracts or documents for about $103,000 for consultants and training hired by the commission, and receipts and invoices were missing for another $96,000 in payments.

Abut $11,000 in leases and rental agreements were not properly documented to ensure they were legally allowable, and $2,780 went to a gambling establishment between 2006 and 2012 and another $500 were spent on alcoholic beverages during that time, the audit said.


State Auditor’s Office: Accountability Audit Report Washington State Commission on African American Affairs