An investigation into the handling of funds at Charleston’s historically black Mother Emanuel AME Church found no evidence of wrongdoing, investigators said.
The church was the site of a 2015 massacre by a white supremacist who killed nine African-Americans during Bible study. In the aftermath of the killings, Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church received millions of dollars in donations.
State investigators earlier this year opened a probe focusing on how donations were used, but the details of the investigation weren’t initially revealed.
Investigators have “completed their review, finding no evidence” that funds were mishandled, South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) spokesman Tommy Crosby told CNN. The probe was closed Monday, Crosby said.
Emanuel AME Pastor Eric Manning said the church “has always handled donations in a way that they were intended,” and that the investigation and the media scrutiny had added more trauma to a church community still trying to heal from the tragedy.
“I thank SLED for their attention to this issue,” Manning told CNN. “I am prayerful that this will continue to aid in the healing process by all who were directly and indirectly impacted by the horrific event of June 17, 2015.”
Attorney Andy Savage, who represents three of the shooting survivors and five of the slain victims’ estates, had said earlier that families were upset the church kept more money than it gave to the victims.
According to Savage and The Post and Courier’s reporting, the church kept about $1.8 million of the more than $3 million it received in donations for building maintenance, an endowment, a memorial and scholarships.
The remaining $1.5 million was split among the immediate families of the victims and one of the survivors, Savage said.
Althea Latham, a former church secretary, told The Post and Courier newspaper last month she had spoken to SLED investigators about the donations.
The donations that Latham reportedly discussed with SLED were the subject of a wrongful termination lawsuit she filed against the church in 2016. Court records show it was jointly dismissed last year.
In Latham’s 2016 lawsuit, the former church secretary alleged that she was fired after telling Emanuel leaders it was illegal to open letters – some with cash and checks – that were addressed to the victims. The church denied the allegations, but later paid an undisclosed settlement. Both parties agreed to dismiss the case last year, Latham’s attorney, Bruce Miller, said.
Dylann Roof, who was convicted of both state and federal charges in the 2015 killings, is awaiting execution.