- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 12, 2014

BILOXI, Miss. (AP) - An east Biloxi charity organized to rebuild houses for the poor after Hurricane Katrina is buying and selling property for profit, and has failed to document thousands in expenses for meals, flights and other purchases, a report from the Secretary of State’s Office finds.

The Secretary of State’s office directed the Hope Community Action Agency to respond by Friday with information and records. The report cautioned that Hope’s charitable status could be revoked or suspended unless Hope documents that funds were used for charity.

Bill Stallworth, Hope’s executive director, told The Sun Herald (http://bit.ly/1orpJQh ) the state’s examiner reached conclusions based on assumptions, rather than talking to him or his staff. The report says Hope completed a project for Tamika Stallworth, assumed to be a relative of his. Stallworth says she is not.

“We’re not trying to hide anything,” Stallworth said. “We’re just trying to do the best we can with what we’ve got … We’re preparing a response. There’s been no wrongdoing.” Stallworth said he does plan to ask for an extension on pulling together the requested documentation because the Friday deadline will be hard to meet.

Citing minutes of Hope board meetings, the report questioned if Hope is improperly selling houses for profit, potentially making it a for-profit business rather than a charity. Stallworth told the Sun Herald that Hope is buying and selling some houses at a profit in order to sustain its charitable operations. Grants are dwindling, he said, and donations have slowed down.

Stallworth also said Hope can document $11,000 in expense reimbursements that the report questioned and that the charity is gathering records to document $160,745 in revenue and more than $50,000 in overhead payments.

The state also questioned whether Hope’s directors are exercising proper oversight, questioning Hope’s expansion beyond east Biloxi and saying the charity failed to report the resignation of four directors since the spring.

Stallworth said he was unaware the resignations must be reported.

“As we start going through this, we have to be responsive to the secretary of state and we’re going to be,” Stallworth said. “We don’t do illegal things. We do things that are helpful to people.”


Information from: The Sun Herald, http://www.sunherald.com

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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