The Black Police Association's Disappearing Money

Organization's books weren't cooked -- they simply don't exist.

He fears the missing debit card money probably may be only a marker for other fast and furious financial practices. "We don't know what else they spent," he says. "The records are not there."

It's not just financial documents that are missing. The basic record-keeping required under state and federal law for tax-exempt organizations has not been done. At all.

"There are no minutes," he says. "There is no budget. There are no board resolutions. There are no subsequent references in the corporate records or any of these kinds of things."

Just as he was realizing the full extent of the problem, Gilstrap says his relationship with the board of directors went from already bad to much worse. The board threatened to file an internal affairs complaint against him in the police department for spreading rumors.

One member of the BPA board was an investigator within internal affairs — the part of the police department that looks into complaints against police officers. Gilstrap was concerned that the board was about to begin using the power and might of the police department to shut down his inquiry into the board's behavior.

"It got so bad that I finally had to stop the administrative inquiries and seek a more formalized investigation, because there was too much going on," he says.

"I solicited the help of our corporate attorneys to help us create some requests for proposals to hire a forensic accountant to determine if there were civil liabilities or criminal culpability."

At that point, however, Gilstrap already was nearing the end of his one-year term as president. He says he had promised himself he would serve only one term to try to straighten things out. At his next-to-last board meeting as president, he says it was clear that the forensic audit was not going to happen and that he was not going to accomplish anything more as president. So on October 11 of this year, he resigned his office.

Gilstrap concedes that some of the charges he makes against the organization probably have to do with people simply not knowing the law rather than out-and-out larceny. He provided me with photocopies of canceled checks that appear to be scholarship awards made to the children or close relatives of the people making the awards.

On the one hand, Gilstrap says the BPA officials handing out the scholarship money may have avoided certain pitfalls that trapped Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson when The Dallas Morning News revealed in 2010 she was awarding scholarship money to her own staff's children in violation of the rules set up by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, which provided the money.

The BPA is clean on that score, Gilstrap says. They didn't have any rules. But he points out the IRS does have rules. Taking money out of the funds of a nonprofit and using that money to profit yourself is problematic, whether you call it a scholarship, a bonus or just a fistful of green.

I failed to persuade officers of the BPA to talk to me, but I did finally receive a call from Timothy A. Duffy, an attorney with Burleson, Pate & Gibson. He said he represents certain board members, whom he declined to name.

Duffy said Gilstrap's evidence has been presented to many law enforcement agencies without result because "there is no substance to the allegations of wrongdoing by any of these directors or officers."

Duffy said many of the expenditures shown in the bank records Gilstrap has assembled reflect "the tradition of the organization to supply, for example, flowers to family members of officers who have passed" and to give gift cards to honor and support "members who have been promoted."

The bank records I looked at did not seem to reflect gift cards but debit cards with full authority to draw on the group's bank accounts.

The checking around I was able to do led me to believe that the officers of this group are very solidly respected in the police department.

I'm also aware that financial horror stories are, if not commonplace, at least not rare in nonprofits at all levels and in all areas of society. People who aren't business people find themselves sitting on an income stream, and they don't understand that it will turn into a rattlesnake if they don't keep good count of it.

The problem in this case is that I think I already hear the rattle. Don't you?

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