Troubled D.C. nonprofit says audit results coming

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Local,DC,Eric P. Newcomer

A youth nonprofit that had hundreds of thousands of dollars stolen by a former D.C. councilman says it will finally release an authoritative accounting of that year's finances.

The DC Children and Youth Investment Trust Corp. plans to release its fiscal year 2010 audit within the next 30 days, Keva Sturdevant, director of development and communications for the trust, told The Washington Examiner on Monday.

Former Councilman Harry Thomas Jr. pleaded guilty last year to stealing $353,000 and tax fraud and was sentenced to three years in prison. Thomas was accused of directing money from the public-private partnership into his own pockets. Thomas apologized in court, saying his actions came out of a sense of entitlement.

"There is no excuse," Thomas said at the time. "What I did was wrong."

The 2010 audit could offer some insight into Thomas' illegal activities, potential collaborators or flawed accounting practices at the time.

Councilman Jim Graham has been railing against the delay.

"We have an unaudited organization that has millions upon millions [of] dollars of D.C. funds," he said Monday. "The audit is going to tell the story."

The trust, which receives the bulk of its funding from the District government, says its plans to conduct audits for 2011 and 2012, as well, but it has not announced a time table for their completion.

Graham, who oversees the publicly funded nonprofit as chairman of the council's Human Services Committee, mounted a campaign to put pressure on the trust. He asked Council Chairman Phil Mendelson to name him as a nonvoting member of the group's board.

After Mendelson nominated Graham earlier this month, a letter from the trust's chairman, Robert Bobb, criticized that decision, and then Graham withdrew his name.

In his letter, Bobb said the trust could help to "prevent repeating the problems of the past by erecting a barrier between the Trust and elected officials."

The trust's new executive director, Ed Davies, who was appointed in November, told The Examiner on Monday that "de-politicizing the influence of elected officials on the organization" is one of his top priorities.

Davies said that the council should continue to oversee the trust but that some donors want assurances that council members will not redirect private money donated to the trust.

"The organization isn't as independent as it needs to be," Davies said.

Although Graham said he supports commissioning a formal assessment of the trust's governing structure and its ties to District government, he dismissed the notion that the current board's composition could be considered anything but a political body.

"The mayor has appointed every member of this board. The mayor is a good guy, but that's the reality," he said.

enewcomer@washingtonexaminer.com

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