ACORN Board to discuss Wade Rathke

ACORN stories: hereWade Rathke: hereVoter-fraud: here

Union-backed voter fraud group to meets today; all eyes on Rathke embezzlement controversy

At its national board meeting in New Orleans Friday, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now will try to resolve whether two board members overstepped their authority by filing a lawsuit seeking access to financial records that might shed light on an embezzlement scandal involving the founder's brother.

One of those board members, Karen Inman, called a news conference Thursday calling for greater transparency and accountability from an ACORN affiliate that Dale Rathke, brother of founder Wade Rathke, managed at the time he stole nearly $1 million by charging the nonprofit's credit cards for items unrelated to his work.

Inman and another board member, Marcel Reid, filed suit in August seeking the disclosure of records kept by that affiliate, Citizens Consulting Inc. Both are members of an interim management committee that was established to set the nonprofit's affairs in order after Wade Rathke was removed as ACORN's chief organizer when the scandal became public over the summer.

But others who sit on the 51-member national board accused the pair of overstepping their authority and asked to have the suit dismissed. At the meeting Friday, the board will determine whether Inman and Reid should in fact represent the entire board in the pursuit of audits and other financial records.

James Gray, an attorney representing them, said Thursday that a New Orleans civil district court judge had already indicated the records kept by CCI should be preserved and released to board members who want to inspect them. The judge will hold a status conference Nov. 7 to discuss the outcome of Friday's national board meeting.

At the Thursday news conference, Inman said she was concerned that Wade Rathke continued to lead a human rights group called ACORN International, even though the board moved over the summer to sever all ties with him. While the Rathke family has previously said the group is a separate organization, Inman said it keeps offices in the same Canal Street building that ACORN does. She believes Rathke continues to exert influence over the nonprofit as a whole.

Although Dale Rathke stole the money more than eight years ago, his brother never revealed the theft to the board, instead setting up a schedule by which his brother could return the funds without a mess. Board members found out about the theft this year after a prominent ACORN donor questioned whether its donations had been misused, and many were furious that Wade Rathke family had kept them in the dark.

"Our motion was to have him eliminated from all ACORN affiliates," Inman said.

The New York Times reported this week that ACORN's interim chief organizer had met with Wade Rathke to find a place for him in one of several dozen of the nonprofit's affiliates. Inman said such negotiations represented an end run around the board.

After Inman spoke, a representative of the Louisiana ACORN chapter took the podium to defend Wade Rathke. Lanny Roy, the state chapter's vice president, said the board members who wanted Rathke removed were new arrivals who did not understand his long record of social justice work.

"Wade Rathke has done nothing wrong," Roy said. "They crucified him."


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