Charity Fires Director Suing Board Over $750K Embezzlement
Healing Arts Initiative, the New York charity at the center of a $750,000 embezzlement controversy, on Friday fired executive director D. Alexandra Dyer and chief financial officer Frank Williams. The board said it fired the pair for withholding “critical financial and other information,” according to The New York Times.
It was the latest development in an increasingly bizarre case. In August, Dyer was attacked with caustic drain cleaner while walking to her car after work. Officials said in April that Dyer was targeted after discovering the embezzled funds and calling a meeting to discuss the issue with the board. Healing Arts Initiative's bookkeeper and two others were charged in the theft and assault.
Dyer then filed a lawsuit against the board in order to return the $750,000, and asked for the board's removal. In the suit, she accused the board of allowing the embezzlement, hiring non-independent auditors and negligently hiring employees.
A month later, Dyer is out. And according to Williams, it's no coincidence. Via The New York Times:
Williams said the firings were retaliatory, and that the board did not want scrutiny of its history of negligence that allowed the thefts to occur.
He and Dyer, both 60, complained to the state attorney general last fall about the board’s stewardship. And last month, Dyer sued the board on behalf of the charity itself, seeking the board’s removal. In recent settlement negotiations, Dyer said, she insisted on an audit committee of two new board members and one holdover that would report its findings to the attorney general.
“This is happening because we exposed them,” Williams said of the board. “They’re trying to kill a great organization.”
A board spokesman denied that the firings were related to the lawsuit, The New York Times reported. The paper said that with the May 15 filing deadline for Form 990s looming, Healing Arts Initiative needed its paperwork in order to ensure funding for its $5 million budget. The board said in a statement that it had made numerous requests to Dyer and Williams for financial information, but that the pair had failed to provide it, the paper reported.
Dyer disputed the claim, telling The New York Times that information "has been so forthcoming it’s laughable." Dyer's lawyer told the paper she was considering a whistleblower suit against the charity.
Interestingly, Healing Arts Initiative hired Ken Berger, former head of Charity Navigator, to take Dyer's place. Berger is listed as interim executive director on the nonprofit's website.