Wanda Alston Foundation Announces Misuse of Funds

Provider of services to homeless LGBT D.C. youth shares new fiscal safeguards, assures donors of remediation

The Wanda Alston Foundation, which operates the Wanda Alston House providing housing and support services for homeless and at-risk LGBT youth in the District, announced Tuesday evening that the foundation has put in place additional controls to prevent misuse of funds following the revelation that a staff member, since removed, used funds for personal use.

According to a statement released by the foundation that was sent to the donors and media, the foundation’s board of directors asked an external accountant to conduct a review of all accounts. That accountant determined that no government funds had been misused. The foundation also apologized for the misuse of funds and offered assurance that problem had been resolved.

Christopher Dyer, a member of the foundation’s board of directors, told Metro Weekly that the foundation had also reached out to donors via phone to inform them and reassure them of the importance of their support.

The board of directors has added additional safeguards to prevent a similar breach in the future, to include requiring that all disbursements be made by check, and increasing restrictions for direct withdrawal of foundation funds.

”The board moved swiftly to address the misuse of funds, and is confident that the strict financial controls that have been instituted in its wake will prevent any future issue of this type,” the board said in its letter to donors. ”The Foundation is a young organization. As it finds increasingly secure footing, its accountability to you, our donors, is paramount.”

Although the statement did not directly name the staff member in question, the statement follows an abrupt announcement in mid-March that named Pettigrew the interim executive director of the Wanda Alston Foundation and announced the sudden departure of Brian Watson, the former executive director, who left ”to pursue other activities,” according to a press release announcing Pettigrew’s appointment.

”Once the funds were discovered missing, the staff member immediately resigned and has agreed to a repayment plan,” the board’s letter reads.

Watson was a former employee of the transgender service agency Transgender Health Empowerment (THE), which shut its doors last year after the organization filed for bankruptcy as a result of mismanagement, failure to pay federal employee payroll taxes, and failure to pay employees for hours worked. According to bankruptcy-filing documents, Watson is among several creditors owed thousands of dollars in unpaid wages by THE. Watson was also among the first class of Metro Weekly Next Generation awardees, in 2009.

Attempts to reach Watson for comment were unsuccessful.

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com