- The Washington Times - Friday, July 6, 2007

Several former Minuteman leaders, angry over the organization’s failure to account for hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of dollars in donations, have formed their own border-vigil operation.

The Patriots' Border Alliance, led by Minuteman Civil Defense Corps leaders fired in May for raising questions about the group’s finances, says it will carry on the mission of fighting illegal entry into the U.S. with volunteers who have “chosen to stand down” from MCDC.

In a letter to Minuteman volunteers, former MCDC Deputy Executive Director Bob Wright said none of those terminated by MCDC President Chris Simcox “ever had their dedication questioned or brought even a hint of disgrace or scandal” to the organization.

“Each is a proven dedicated Patriot who has always kept our mission foremost while fiercely protecting the integrity of the organization you and they have built,” he said. “All of you know or have served with at least one of these Leaders. You know their quality and integrity.”

The Minuteman leaders, including Mr. Wright, were fired after asking for a meeting with Mr. Simcox to discuss a lack of financial accountability. The purge was ordered by Mr. Simcox, who came under criticism last year over similar questions involving how much money MCDC had raised and where it had gone.

Included in the purge were several top lieutenants, most of whom had been with the organization since its April 2005 founding. Those fired in addition to Mr. Wright were Bill Irwin, national operations officer; Greg Thompson, national training coordinator; Stacey O’Connell, a key organizer and Arizona state chapter director; and more than a dozen other Minuteman leaders.

In a May 8 letter to Mr. Simcox, the group said there was a “serious lack of financial accountability” and that MCDC financial information should be turned over to local and state chapters. Saying long-standing requests for the information had gone unanswered, they added that MCDC chapters were not getting promised resources and that reimbursements for out-of-pocket expenditures were not being made in a timely manner, if at all.

Many of the group’s most senior members said last year that requests to Mr. Simcox for a financial accounting were ignored. Gary Cole, national director of operations, and Mike Gaddy, national field coordinator, were among the first to raise questions. Both were fired.

Mr. Simcox has declined to be interviewed by The Washington Times, but in a posting on his Web page, he called the accusations “unfounded.” He also said MCDC “never failed to answer anyone’s questions” about finances, although he refused to deliver on promises he made to The Times in 2005 and 2006 on three occasions to disclose MCDC financial records.

In November, in its only Internal Revenue Service filing, MCDC said it spent $450,000 in 2005 for volunteers to patrol the U.S.-Mexican border, about $31,000 more than it collected in donations and registration fees.

However, the figure was significantly less than the $1.6 million Mr. Simcox told The Times last July that the group had collected in donations since its creation. Since then, Mr. Simcox has created separate fundraising organizations, the Minuteman Border Fence and the Minuteman Political Action Committee, but has not given Minuteman members or the public a full accounting of how much money has been collected or on what it has been spent.

Mr. Wright said that because the current MCDC leaders “have yet to present themselves accountable to their membership,” the Patriots' Border Alliance has begun planning “a major border watch event,” although details are still being worked out.

PBA is committed to carrying on with the mission of fighting illegal immigration in a form of protest, the form of continued border watch efforts,” he said. “This will be our mission, and we will succeed.”