August 26, 2010; Source: Enterprise News | According to the Brockton Enterprise, a Massachusetts based food bank has closed up shop after being evicted, leaving bills unpaid even to local farmers (causing the bank to lose its USDA produce-selling license), and without notifying those food outlets which were dependent on the bank for supplies.

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley is investigating complaints against Serve New England and its director, Ann T. Adams. Adams has apparently made herself unavailable both to the attorney general and the Enterprise but, bizarrely a member of Serve’s current board of directors—who coincidently is reported to live at Adams’ house and date her daughter—says Adams is planning to liquidate assets and pay all debts.

According to this account, a former board member evicted the group after not receiving payments for six months which leads us to assume he was their landlord. The board member says that the organization began receiving complaints about slow payments soon after Adams took the helm. He also said that despite repeated requests Adams declined to provide financial reports to the board.

Where do we start?

Using this as a learning moment we can enumerate a few issues of, we are sure, many:

  • A board member should not live at the executive director’s house nor is it advisable that she date your daughter. Not enough of an arms length relationship . . . to put it mildly;
  • Ditto on the landlord – be a major vendor or a board member—generally you don’t want people playing both roles. Too much room for self-dealing;
  • No financials despite repeated requests? What?
  • Ditto on no board action on a pattern of slow payments?
  • And when it does all implode—for goodness sake, get in front of it! Don’t leave everyone to speculate about what a bunch of crooks run not only this nonprofit but all nonprofits. This kind of behavior ripples out. Did no one with integrity see what was happening here?

Many of us have watched as this kind of situation has played out—although my impression is it happens less and less but it is truly in everyone’s best interest to stick our noses in. Proof of that can be seen in the comments following the article.

By the way, the auditor says he has no suspicions of wrongdoing. What about you? Comments and observations?—Ruth McCambridge