Ms. Smith-Steiner claims the group does little more than organize an annual gala and other social events.
“They don’t do any of the activities in their mission statement,” she said. “I encouraged them to put out pamphlets and information to the community, but they aren’t doing anything.”
In March 2010, as the group’s incoming treasurer, she wrote to Mr. Brannum about “the paucity of records documenting the organization’s finances,” and warned it could “undermine public confidence in the 5DCAC.” She said undocumented expenditures from the account “indicate that no checks and balances are in place.”
In asking for an outside audit of the group’s finances, Ms. Smith-Steiner complained to Mr. Brannum that he allowed her predecessor to re-route bank statements to his home address without notifying the board, and wrote that “the practice of only one signer on the account leads to a possibility of questionable activity.”
She then admonished Mr. Brannum by citing his role as a board member with the defunct North Capitol Neighborhood Development Corporation, which she said ran into “major financial problems that caused them to close in 2004.”
Ms. Smith-Steiner resigned as the group’s treasurer in a letter on May 11, citing violations of the bylaws and interference by Mr. Brannum, and the “illegal financial activities” and “unethical behavior” of the group.
In her resignation letter she wrote that Mr. Brannum had accessed the group’s bank account without her knowledge in violation of the bylaws, and had been intercepting mail from the group’s post office box, forcing her to close the group’s bank account.
The Times was unable to determine the financial status of the group, whose online donation form lists a phone number for Mr. Brannum, and whose website directs treasurer inquiries to Mr. Brannum’s email account.
Ms. Smith-Steiner said Mr. Brannum’s control over the group was a point of concern for her. In her resignation letter, she noted that she was not supported by the group’s board of directors in her efforts to reform the group’s financial practices.
“It was also quite apparent that the majority of the members had organized to thwart my attempts to hold accountable the Chairperson, Robert Brannum, on his illegal financial activities with this organization,” she wrote.