June 20, 2010; Source: Dayton Daily News | Apparently, a Dayton, Ohio-based group that had long been disaffiliated from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and denied 501(c)(3) tax exempt status with the IRS collected $1.8 million in public funds over a 12 year period from the Montgomery County, Ohio government. The phony nonprofit, the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, had received social service funding during those years, though it apparently took until this year for the county government to figure out that the IMA wasn’t providing any social services.

The Dayton Daily News has long been on the case of this sham operation and the two ministers behind it. There is some hint of disarray in the national SCLC operation—a long devolution since the days of Martin Luther King, Jr. The news commentary unfortunately seems to focus on the questions of accountability and integrity in this shady non-nonprofit. It should actually raise questions about the public sector, that is, the county’s due diligence or lack of it.

Couldn’t the County have checked the online search engine at the IRS to determine if the IMA or any nonprofit the county contracts with is listed as a legitimate 501(c)(3) in the IRS’s official Publication 78? Wasn’t there any due diligence for spotting the lack of social service delivery by the organization and the two ministers? There’s clearly plenty about the IMA that warrants legal action by lots of county, state, and federal officials, but some of this might have been nipped in the bud long ago had the local authorities been a little quicker on the uptake.—Rick Cohen