Contractor for child welfare cases needed help to make ends meet, but spent $80,000 on Chicago Cubs tickets

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SALINA, KS – A Kansas-based non-profit ministry organization contracted to work on child welfare cases and held a lucrative state government contract in Omaha, Nebraska needed help to make ends meet. 

It has also been found to have spent more than $80,000 on tickets for Chicago Cubs baseball games.

Contractor for Omaha child welfare cases needed help to make ends meet, but spent $80,000 on Chicago Cubs tickets
Screenshot courtesy of YouTube

A whistleblower report detailed in the Omaha World-Herald said that St. Francis Ministries, a Salina, Kansas based non-profit, was struggling to pay its weekly expenses while making spending decisions that called into question the agency’s judgment.

The Kansas-based private agency went into debt to pay foster parents in 2019 while it spent $80,000 on Chicago Cubs baseball tickets. 

According to the whistleblower report, the cash shortages forced St. Francis on “multiple occasions” to prioritize its spending.

The agency had a bank line of credit, but failed to meet the requirements for the line of credit with the bank for that year. 

The report also stated that it borrowed money from a private individual to make its payments.

Meanwhile, the whistleblower pointed out that St. Francis management spent $80,000 on Cubs tickets in 2019, including $65,000 on playoff tickets. The agency expected to get a $65,000 refund because the Cubs did not make the playoffs.

At the same time, St. Francis Ministries holds a $197 million five-year contract from the state of Nebraska to oversee the care of neglected and abused children in two of the state’s counties.

Nebraska’s Health and Human Services awarded the contract to the agency in early June 2019, and the agency began taking cases from an Omaha-based contractor in October 2019.

According to the report from the Omaha World-Herald, Kansas child welfare officials received the unsigned report on November 26, 2019.  They responded in January 2020 by hiring an accounting firm to audit St. Francis. The audit report is not public yet.

Last week, officials with the Kansas Department of Children and Families said they are pushing St. Francis for access to all the agency’s documents concerning its financial stability and its use of state dollars.

The St. Francis board launched an internal investigation once it learned of the whistleblower’s report. The investigation ended in November when two of the agency’s top officials stepped down, Reverend Robert Smith, who had been president and CEO of the agency, and Tom Blythe, who had been chief operating officer.

Khalilah LeGrand, a spokeswoman for Nebraska’s Department of Health and Human Services, said state officials have not seen the whistleblower’s report, although they were informed about the existence of the internal investigation.

She said St. Francis was awarded the Omaha-area contract because it received the highest score under the state’s procurement process.

LeGrand stated:

“St. Francis continues to be committed to serving Nebraska’s children and families.  DHHS remains focused on helping people live better lives and continues to work collaboratively with their leadership.”

St. Francis spokeswoman Morgan Rothenberger declined to comment on the report Tuesday, saying it would be inappropriate before Kansas officials finish their investigation. Earlier, she had said the allegations did not include any alleged improprieties involving children and families.

In a statement, William Clark, who has been named interim president and CEO, commended the whistleblower:

“We appreciate the courage it took for the whistleblower to come forward and bring questionable actions to light.  Ultimately, this will make us a stronger and better organization, which is always our goal.”

Morgan Rothenberger said Clark has been working with St. Francis officials and board members “to make difficult decisions that will ensure a strong future for Saint Francis.”

The report did not say whether the ticket purchase was related to St. Francis’ bid for the Nebraska contract.

For a twist, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts’ family owns the Chicago Cubs baseball organization.

In another twist, an additional concern in the whistleblower report included a $7 million information technology contract with Bill Whymark, who the report identified as a business partner to Reverend Robert Smith, the former St. Francis president. 

There was also evidence that the agency paid election expenses for Smith’s wife to seek a national office with the Episcopal Church, which is affiliated with St. Francis.

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Report: Al Sharpton’s charity tax filings show that it paid relatives over $80K in 2019

November 23, 2020

HARLEM, NY- According to recent tax filings obtained by the New York Post, Rev. Al Sharpton’s charity kept a lot of money within the family, reportedly paying more than $80,000 to his relatives during 2019.

The charity, the National Action Network (NAN), allegedly paid Sharpton’s 33-year-old daughter Ashley Sharpton $63,250 last year to do “social media” work and “consulting”. The charity also paid out $13,750 to Sharpton’s niece, Nikki Sharpton, 45, for “special-event” work in NAN’s Atlanta bureau. 

Sharpton’s eldest daughter, Dominique, 34, who has been the organization’s membership director since 2008, is not listed as receiving any compensation in the tax filings. However, in 2018, she received a $95,000 payout in a lawsuit settlement with the city after she claimed she suffered a sprained ankle by walking on cracked pavement in Soho.

In addition, NAN gave a $5,000 grant to Sharpton’s wife, Kathy Jordan Sharpton, which was listed on their taxes as “scholarship money.” The Rev. actually separated from his wife back in 2004. The Harlem-based charity:

“Is an activist social justice organization that works with the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to provide a modern civil rights and human rights agenda.”

The charity’s website urges visitors to “donate today” to ensure that NAN “continues fighting for justice.” The charity works to uphold the dream, legacy, and spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Reportedly, last year, the charity received $7.8 million in revenue and it spent out $7.5 million. The report said that a quarter of the expenses were devoted to travel and transportation with an astounding $777,623 going to Carey International.

Carey International is a high-end car service, which boasts of its “world-class fleet” and its “certified, professional chauffeurs.”

Allegedly, another $1.2 million went to air, train, and other travel costs. The tax filing noted that either Sharpton or Michael Hardy, the general counsel, flies first class.

In response to the most recent tax filings, NAN spokeswoman Rachel Noerdlinger said that the car service budget paid for travel across the country that included transporting dignitaries to the group’s annual conference and regional meetings as well as transporting victims to rallies or trials.

She said that Sharpton has his own car and uses the car services “infrequently.” She did not comment on what type of car he drove.

Noerdlinger called 2019 a “banner organizing year in preparation for 2020.” She said that travel increased due of “voter engagement and registration.” She also said that they did a lot of work around the census and construction of NAN tech hubs around the country.

Noerdlinger claimed that the money for Sharpton’s wife went to a scholarship fund through her own church and that NAN contributes to every year. However, no such grants have been listed on the organization’s tax filings in recent years. 

Laurie Styron, the director of CharityWatch, a watchdog group said that compensation to the close family members of an organization’s trustees or key employees must be disclosed on the tax filing. 

Sharpton, 66,  president of NAN , received a 1 percent raise in 2019, raising his yearly pay to $327,570. Prior to that, in 2018, he received an extra $722,948 in addition to his base pay of $324,000. NAN claimed that the extra cash was to make up for the years when he was not fully paid:

“The Harlem-based nonprofit, which Sharpton controls as president and CEO, said the extra cash was to make up for the years from 2004 to 2017 when he didn’t get his full pay. NAN said it hired an executive compensation firm that determined the good reverend was owed $1.252 million, but he was generously willing to take $500,000 less.”

Sharpton, who is an MSNBC host, founded NAN in 1991. His relationship with the group raised some concern in 2018 when tax filings revealed he was selling the rights to his life story to the nonprofit for $531,000. NAN said that it would make money by selling the rights to filmmakers or others.

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