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Audit reveals major flaws with organization robbed by convicted D.C. councilman

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Local,DC,Eric P. Newcomer,D.C. Council,Jim Graham

A new audit of the Children and Youth Investment Trust Corp. covering the period when Harry Thomas Jr. stole $353,500 from the government-funded nonprofit reveals what many expected: There were major flaws in how the trust monitored its finances.

In May, Thomas was sentenced to 38 months in prison for using his influence as a councilman to direct money from the trust to nonprofits that he controlled. He then funneled money from those nonprofits to himself.

The audit of the trust found that "information provided to management may not be accurate, thereby affecting management decisions" and "the probability that additional errors could occur and go undetected for a long time is greatly increased."

In auditing lingo, the independent firm discovered "material weaknesses" -- or problems that would make it easy for a serious financial misstatement to go undetected.

"It's not surprising at all," said Ward 1 D.C. Councilman Jim Graham, who heads the council committee that has oversight of the Children and Youth Investment Trust Corp.

A former president of the trust, Millicent West, pleaded guilty last month to tax fraud in connection with Thomas' theft.

Audits for fiscal years 2011 and 2012 have yet to be completed, and the trust's new board chairman, Robert Bobb, said he expects auditors could turn up other problems in those reports, as well.

Bobb said the trust is working to address the concerns raised in the fiscal 2010 audit.

At an oversight hearing Monday, Bobb endorsed a "blue-ribbon panel," also supported by Graham, that would examine the trust's governing structure.

Bobb said the trust has raised "zero" dollars from private donors since he took over as chairman in April 2012. The theft of hundreds of thousands of dollars from the public-private partnership has caused donors to cool to the trust, which funds local nonprofits.

"Until there is more successful private philanthropy, you are really a government agency that spends government money and is run by government appointees," Graham said.

enewcomer@washingtonexaminer.com

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