Internal Shriner Document Confirms Corruption?
Fri Jul 18, 2008
A confidential "Interim Report of the Special Investigative Committee of the Joint Boards of Shriners Hospitals for Children" describes how immediate past potentate Bernard Lemieux appointed a committee to investigate the conduct of Shriner leaders, Ralph Semb, Chairman of the Shriners Hospitals for Children Board of Trustees and Gene Bracewell, Imperial Treasurer Shriners International Imperial Divan. The report was leaked online at Wikileaks.com and can be found here.
The April 10, 2008 document describes how Lemieux appointed committee members on September 20, 2007 to "inquire whether Semb and Bracewell engaged in unethical conduct by intervening in the executive evaluation process (the so called 360 degree review) of Edgar McGonigal, Director of Development of SHC during the year 2007."
It is believed that this is the first time that an Imperial Potentate has appointed such a committee to investigate allegations that top Shriner leaders behaved unethically.
The report reveals how Semb and Bracewell pushed hard for continued contracts with one specific fund-raising company, Vantage Direct Marketing Services. Vantage raised over $46 million between 1999 and 2003 on behalf of SHC with only $2.5 million going to the hospitals.
In other words, if someone donated $100 during these campaigns, $95 was kept by Vantage with only $5 going to the hospitals.
Bracewell admitted to committee and board members that he got at least one free trip from Vantage in 2007.
The report suggests that Semb retaliated against McGonigal, who opposed Vantage contracts, by unilaterally firing him on October 31, 2006 without first consulting the joint boards or HR.
The report suggests that both Semb and Bracewell were attempting to accomplish their purpose by using subterfuge rather than by directly making their views known by "compromising the 360 degree review process in an unprecedented way." The committee reported that Semb and Bracewell contacted confidential employment reviewers in an effort to further retaliate against McGonigal by having him removed for poor job performance. This was done after executive vice president James Full allegedly violated employment confidentiality to "in part, avoid a confrontation with Mr. Semb."
The report also describes how the committee was suspended by an unrecorded action of the joint boards in executive session on November 2, 2007. After the investigation was reinstated on January 26, 2008, it was expanded to include events surrounding the resignation of controller, Willard Fawcett.
The report describes how Fawcett alleged "improper reimbursement of expenses that did not further the exempt purposes of SHC and contracts that were not in the best interests of SHC and may have involved self-interest on the part of members of the Joint Boards."
"Of greater concern," the report explains "is Mr. Fawcett's allegation (which we emphasize is unsubstantiated at this time) that the 2006 Form 990 may include improper reporting of certain items, and that the form was executed by Mr. Semb notwithstanding the identification by Mr. Fawcett of irregularities in the return."
The committee members also described how headquarters personnel worked under the threat of being fired in a culture of fear if they did not bend to the wills of leaders like Semb and Bracewell.
The committee recommended that:
* Semb and Bracewell be reprimanded for violating both SHC and AAONMS Code of Ethics.
* Deloitte and Touche be hired for forensic accounting.
* Records be reviewed to correct or recover improper reimbursements.
* The Conflict of Interest Policy and Bylaws be amended to designate a full time member of the legal department for conflict of interest compliance.
* The SHC bylaws be amended to "debar from business with SHC any entity that provides or offers any gifts, gratuities or favors to any member of the joint boards, any officer or senior executive."
* SHC provide a whistle blower hotline or other program so employees, senior executives, trustees or directors can report suspected incidents, corporate wrong doing, conflict of interest, violations of corporate policy or violations of law.
The report concluded the committee's investigation into the Semb/Bracewell/Vantage conflict of interest matter but stated that Fawcett's allegations required more investigation.
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Very interesting article Sandy. Great job.
1!#1 - Fri Jul 18, 2008 8:01 AM EDT
So we're talking about a $43.5M charity swindle, and the major networks aren't covering this... why? I would think this kind of story would grab some serious headlines, particularly since Shriners are considered as a charity very worth the donation, given the results of their effort.
Then again, we are talking about a bunch of grown men in fez's, but still....
1!#2 - Fri Jul 18, 2008 9:21 AM EDT