March 8, 2012; Source: Boston Herald

On the heels of the scrutiny of New York agencies serving people with disabilities, Massachusetts State Auditor Suzanne Bump has demanded that the Charlestown, Mass.-based nonprofit Life Focus Center Inc. pay $130,000 in taxpayer funds to the state. The nonprofit’s mission is to help the disabled, but its executive director, the audit finds, frequently used the organization’s credit card for purchases that seemingly had little to do with that mission.

Executive Director Jack Millerick reportedly put more than $120,000 “on the card” in the 2009 and 2010 fiscal years, and the auditor isn’t buying Millerick’s defense of his spending.

“It’s hard to accept the executive director’s explanation that purchases at out-of-state restaurants, including the New Hampshire liquor store and the Walt Disney World Resort, had any connection to program supplies for the disabled clients,” Bump said.

It seems Millerick and others at the organization also had a habit of hiring family members—in one case paying its staff director’s husband $183,000 from 2008 to 2010 as a 25-hour-per-week consultant, according to the audit.

We could go on, but you get the point. If the audit is accurate, then it would appear that this was not a good nonprofit citizen. We just hate to see scorching headlines like the one that accompanied this story in the Boston Herald (“Nonprofit binges on vacay, booze, dinners out”), as they have a way of sticking in the public imagination even if they’re completely atypical. We can only hope that such alleged unethical behavior is viewed in proper context as the extreme exception, not the rule, among the nonprofit sector. –Mike Keefe-Feldman