October 18, 2011; Source: San Diego Union-Tribune  |  This simple little story pretty much exemplifies the nearly unconscious organization. San Diego Habitat for Humanity collected $700,000 to provide relief for victims of the deadly 2007 wildfires in Southern California. County Supervisor Dianne Jacob later challenged the organization to prove that the money was all used to build new housing. The reply came in a letter from an accountant assuring the county that the money was spent appropriately. But Jacob named the elephant in the room when she said that the explanation needed to include something about why no new homes were built with the funds.

Now the organization has come back to say “my bad,” claiming that the money was deposited in a general operating support account instead of in a restricted fund. Since the first revelations of the irregularities at San Diego Habitat, the executive director has stepped down but is now suing the chapter saying that the board misled him about the financial condition of the organization. Another employee, who says he tried to blow the whistle but was fired instead, has recently sued the organization for wrongful termination.

In addition, big institutional funders, including the United Way and the Beim Foundation, are asking for their money back—over $250,000 in the United Way’s case.

County Supervisor Jacob says she thinks the group needs a major overhaul. She told the San Diego Union-Tribune, “The meeting confirmed what I have long believed: The organization botched their mission after the fires and the financial records are evidence of that.”—Ruth McCambridge