Heads Up, Boards! Even the Most Trusted Managers Don’t Warrant Blind Faith

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February 23, 2015; Alaska Dispatch News

In Anchorage, the COO of a substance abuse education nonprofit pled guilty in superior court for stealing $34,493 from the group and received 10 years of suspended jail time.

Anna Sappah managed the Alaska Addiction Professionals Association for four years, during which time she was the sole monitor, apparently, of the accounts. In that context of a complete dearth of checks and balances, she opened up a debit card linked to the organizational account and drained the account over time.

Exhibiting an excruciating lack of insight, Cynthia Aiken, who is the treasurer of AAPA, told police that Sappah simply reported to the board on the account balance between 2010 and 2013 “and no one questioned her.” It may not have occurred to Aiken that she was responsible for sparking that questioning as treasurer, and it was not until the accounts ran completely dry that anyone decided to check.

Sappah says she is sorry for what she has done, but she could not have done it if the board were not complicit, leaving the organization and the money the group was stewarding for its constituents wide open for abuse and neglect.

The other injured party in this equation is every other nonprofit in Alaska. This kind of case ends up painting others into the picture, as one can see looking at the comments on this article.—Ruth McCambridge