By Edwin Crayton/Opinion
According to its bylaws, the Natchitoches Community Improvement Foundation (NCIF), a local community foundation, was supposed to be audited in October of 2018. However the foundation’s board decided to wait, citing the need to find a CPA firm to handle the audit. But that was over 12 months ago—a full year. The lack of the required audit became a thorny issue, so much so it was mentioned in a recent lawsuit against the foundation. As a matter of fact, for an entire year, I attended each quarterly NCIF meeting and asked at each one, when the overdue audit would take place but got no commitment from the board. Indeed, the audit did not even appear on the agendas of any quarterly meetings. But at the Tuesday October 8, 2019 at First Baptist Church Amulet, the board finally voted to hire a firm to conduct the audit.
What is interesting, is that the local CPA firm chosen is the same one that found and reported in 2014, that $19,500 in funds handled by NCIF were unaccounted for (and are not yet accounted for). According to documents presented at the October meeting, that firm is Thomas, Cunningham, Broadway & Todtenbier, Natchitoches. The documents also say the audit will cover the years 2014 through 2018. NCIF is being challenged to explore new ways of doing things. It has a long history of controversy and even recently has been involved in a lawsuit that concerns its alleged practices. It is also currently in violation of the term limits provision of its bylaws. That is because the sitting chairman Leo Walker and two other board members—Kelvin Porter and Diane Blake Jones—are holding on to their seats even though their terms expired a year ago. The board voted to put them back on despite the fact that doing so violates term limits in the NCIF bylaws. At the Tuesday, October 8 meeting, I asked Mr. Walker if he would step down and he claimed he had come prepared to resign that night, but decided (apparently at the meeting) not to resign. And he also spoke for Mr. Porter indicating Porter would not step down either. The usually quite verbal Mr. Porter who was at the meeting too, softly communicated that Walker could speak for him. When I asked Ms. Jones if she would resign as required by the bylaws, she declined to comment. By the way, the board asked anyone from the public to leave while it went into a so-called “executive session” to discuss something. This is the second straight time the board has done this. It also called an executive session at the last quarterly meeting in July. This one lasted 49 minutes. I got the distinct impression board members were very concerned with what I might hear and tell you, as I was the only member of public present both times.
A few days ago, I drove past a local church that had a sign outside which seems to sum up the challenge for NCIF, a foundation stuck in old ways and in keeping the same people, year after year. (All of the expired members have been on the board at least five to 10 years. Walker has been on since 2003—16 years.) That church sign I mentioned, said simply: “Old Ways Won’t Open New Doors”. When I saw that sign, I thought of NCIF because to become a foundation that can truly help Natchitoches, it must abandon its old ways and open the door to new ideas and new people who are sincerely dedicated to using the 1.8 million in its treasury for the purposes that money was originally intended: to provide funding and grants to help citizens in Natchitoches in areas of education, recreation, housing and economic development. And yet, the fact that The Natchitoches Community Improvement Foundation has had to submit to an audit is in itself progress for the public as it makes the foundation more transparent and a bit more accountable to the people of Natchitoches. For the people, that’s a win. The Natchitoches Community Improvement Foundation Board of Directors are: Gwen Ante Hardison, Brenda Milner, Shaniqua Hoover, Oswald Taylor, Gwendolyn Williams, Mildred Joseph, Renee Porter, Dionte Powe, and DeMarquis Hamilton, The following members are not letting go of their seats on the board even though their terms expired 12 months ago: Leo Walker, Kelvin Porter, and Diane Blake Jones
“You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” –Jesus, John 8:32
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”—Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
By Edwin Crayton/Opinion