Hope CDA finances under scrutiny from MS Secretary of State
BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Tuesday is Bill Stallworth's birthday. The present he received is not what he wanted. He's going through mountains of Hope CDA paperwork, looking for answers to questions from Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann.
The questions center on allegations of buying and selling property for a profit, in other words, flipping.
Stallworth has an answer. "We try and find homes that are able to be re-habbed, turned, and sold and then those proceeds are coming back into the agency. We don't get to keep any of the money. We're just trying to find opportunities that we can continue our mission," Stallworth explained.
There are questions about spending thousands on meals and travel. Stallworth answers that by saying, "We do wind up having to take some people to dinner and do some other things but those are the things bring money into the organization. And just like any good salesperson or any good business person, you have to go out and market your wares."
Another series of questions from the Secretary of State ask about board of directors' oversight at the agency. "The board looks at everything we do," Stallworth said. "There's an executive director summary given to the board about everything that we're going through. The board looks at the financial's a great deal."
The questions don't stop. The Secretary of State asks about the actual mission of Hope CDA. "Community development is a lot more than just putting a house in place," Stallworth implored. "It's helping the people in those houses get to be stronger, get to be more independent and be able to sustain themselves."
WLOX News contacted the Secretary of State to ask about the report. An email from his spokesperson said, "The Secretary of State's Office does not comment on current, pending, or potential investigations."
Even though Stallworth feels Hope CDA will be completely exonerated once all the facts are known and the report is made to the Secretary of State, he also says damage has been done. "There's no question about this hurting the mission of Hope CDA. Anytime there is a quote, unquote cloud, people pull back, funding sources are shrinking and the fact that we have to spend so much staff time responding to this."
And finally, a promise from the executive director. "There's nothing that has been done wrong here at Hope and we're happy to open our books. We cooperate with the secretary of state fully," Stallworth said.
The Secretary of State has requested Hope CDA file a complete report on the agency's finances by this Friday. Stallworth says because of the amount of paperwork involved, that would be very hard to do. Because of that, he will ask for an extension.
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