November 14, 2008

ACORN board fires members

Posted: 02:19 PM ET

The community organizing group ACORN, investigated this year for filing fraudulent voter registration forms, has fired two board members it had appointed to look into the possible embezzlement of nearly $1 million by the brother of one of the group's founders.

An internal document from the ACORN executive board, obtained by CNN, shows that members Karen Inman and Marcel Reid were "removed from any office or committee position you may have held." A separate document says that "the memberships of Karen Inman and Marcel Reid in ACORN is canceled, and they are removed from the Association Board." The documents, dated November 11, are signed by Maude Hurd, president of the ACORN Association Board. Hurd was not immediately available for comment Thursday afternoon, an ACORN receptionist said.


But ACORN member Gloria Brown, speaking from the group's main office in New Orleans, Louisiana, said in response to a CNN request for comment that Inman and Reid were removed because "they've been saying from the beginning things that were not true."

Brown said she was the only person available from ACORN to speak with CNN at the moment. Inman, who is from Minnesota, contends that only her state branch can remove her and it has not done so. She said the ACORN board's actions will lead to a criminal investigation.

"Why would you want us not to clean up things?" she asked. "Why would you not want to do your own investigation instead of bringing in the sheriff?"

Asked if she thinks the sheriff is coming, she answered: "I think the sheriff's coming."

The possible embezzlement by Dale Rathke, brother of ACORN founder Wade Rathke, allegedly occurred about eight years ago. But the ACORN board did not find out about it until this year. In July, the ACORN board selected an interim management committee to look at the possible embezzlement and its concealment. Inman and Reid were two of the members appointed to the committee.

When an ACORN affiliate that acts as the group's accounting firm denied the committee members access to the books, Inman said, she, Reid and several others filed a lawsuit to have the court order ACORN to preserve the books and give them access to all accounting matters. That suit became known as the ACORN 8 because, according to Inman, eight ACORN people signed onto it. She now says there are 25 members demanding the accountability.

ACORN said the interim management committee essentially had no authority
and countersued.

"They didn't have authority from that committee," ACORN member Brown said Thursday. "They filed this lawsuit that basically was not on behalf of the
board at all."

According to the documents obtained by CNN, the ACORN executive board met Sunday and decided to remove Inman and Reid and any other members participating in the lawsuit. The problems at ACORN already have cost it the financial support of one of its major donors. The Catholic Campaign for Human Development froze contributions to ACORN in June amid the embezzlement allegations. This week, as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops met in Baltimore, Maryland, the campaign's chairman said it was cutting all ties with the group.

"We simply had too many questions and concerns to permit further CCHD funding of ACORN groups," Roger Morin, the auxiliary bishop of New Orleans, told his colleagues in an earlier letter to the conference.

The CCHD has donated more than $7.3 million to ACORN-related projects over the past decade, including $40,000 to an ACORN chapter in Las Vegas, Nevada, that was raided before the election in an investigation into fraudulent voter registration forms. Morin said a church review completed earlier this month found ACORN no longer meets standards for further funding.

In a statement to CNN, ACORN Executive Director Steven Kest said his group is grateful for the church's funding.

"We look forward to continuing discussions with CCHD officials and the bishops in the months ahead in hopes that we can continue working together on projects which have been so important to so many in low-income neighborhoods across the country," Kest said.

But Ralph McCloud, the Human Development campaign's director, said the church has "severed ties" with ACORN and there are no plans for further discussion.

By Kathleen Johnston

– CNN's Arthur Brice and Marcus Hooper contributed to this report.

Filed under: Drew Griffin • Special Investigations Unit

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ACW   November 16th, 2008 10:14 am ET

Doesn't the CNN "Special Investigations Unit" have anything better to investigate than a non-profit community organization that has made a few mistakes? ACORN is a good organization, doing important and good work with very few resources. CNN should be covering the much, much broader successes of the organization, which has a 38 year old history packed with good and effective work that has made millions of lives better. If you insist on doing such "exposes," I'd like to hear more details of the mistakes made by AIG, GM, Wachovia, etc...along with those companies who are currently following their troubled path. These are the mistakes that are hurting me and the rest of the world right now in a real way, not the mistakes of a do-good community organization.

Jack Handy   November 16th, 2008 1:49 pm ET

Remember, this is the same news organization that enjoyed high-ratings from a war that resulted, in part, from their refusal to investigate false WMD claims.

Hugh Colburn   November 16th, 2008 5:18 pm ET

Last fall, I was asked through University Email to open my science classes to ACORN and I refused. I feel vindicated but I feel that it was totally inappropriate for me to have been asked to change my science class, supported by taxpayer and student funds, into a voter registration event. I knew that something was terribly wring then, and the fact that ACORN is now a proven criminal enterprise just raises more questions.

I also feel that CNN did a horrible job in reporting on the overt fraud inherent in the ACORN organization because it wanted to elect Obama.

Is ACORN another fishy organization that Obama is now linked to?

Why did Roman Catholics support ACORN? That's a question I want answered.


Betty Phillips   November 17th, 2008 9:04 pm ET

Why do I keep the feeling that ACORN has been more than a FISHY organization? Everyone knows that ACORN in Ohio were responsible for the voter registration fraud, it is sad when they will attempt and get a registered vote from a deceased person, we are not fools, it is the deceased relatives that got them, they had one intention and that was to get Obama elected..Well, enjoy the fruits of your crimes and Shame on you for hurting all the legit voters that consider a Voting right as something to be so very proud of. Betty Phillips

Carol Gaydosh   May 9th, 2009 9:21 pm ET

Thank you CNN for finally starting to look out for us taxpayers! I have such a concern for our voting freedom. If this goes-so goes our country. We all know this ACORN organization was h– bent on getting Obama elected, and they might have accomplished this without the fraud. Don't blame what is happening in our country on facts that you were not aware of prior to the election. He (Obama) told us exactly what he was going to do in his campaign which seemed to last forever! Who voted for him??? and why??? Working in social work I see first hand what dependence on the government does to people, and it is not a pretty sight. My heart goes out to our young people who have been blindsighted by their professors and the media. I hope you they don't mind giving 50 to 70 cents out of every dollar we earn to the government, and having the government shut off our air conditioner if we use too much. Not to mention if you find a lump which concerns you on your body , the government will tell you when & where to have the medical care. Visit Canada and see how wonderful their medical system is. My daughter lived there, I know. Fox is a little much, but the rest of the media better wake up and stop ignoring our loss of voice and feedom. You all have children too!!!

John   June 9th, 2009 7:21 am ET

Acorn cannot lead the investigation. Like any other questionable outfit they will provide only a few facts and then cover their tracks. This is another example of a corrupt organization. Like many they start off with the right ideals and objectives however when the money flows in the corruption starts. Outfits like this must have an independent investigation conducted where all the facts are made available. If they have nothing to hide they will use an outside organization to investigate all allegations of impropriety. Especially if they are receving taxpayer funds to operate.

Alice R. Guillory   July 16th, 2009 3:05 pm ET

Acorn is a great organization maybe with some flaws, but it is a member ran organization. I have belonged to Acorn for over 15 years. I have done voter registration many times. If there was fraud going on it was Acorn being frauded by people they tried to help by giving them a job to do. May it should have been more check an balance going on, but the people was entrusted with doing the job honestly. I was not paid for registering voters I and as many others was a volunteer. Acorn has done so much good in the neighborhoods it is active in until it for out way any bad that has been cited so far. If money was misappropriated I am glad it was found out. Believe the good people in that organization will take care that it dosen't happen again. I have not been active in Acorn for a few years but I am still a dues paying member and proud to be. Acorn was preaching to washinton and loca goverment about the bad loan situation long before it hit rock bottom, I hope the Catholic charities would reconsider helping such a positive organization.

Brian Moore   September 25th, 2009 12:01 am ET

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