New Times - Broward-Palm Beach
February 19, 2010
Treasurer's Departure Raises More Questions About Deerfield Beach Charity for Elderly
By Thomas Francis
The former treasurer and vice president of the Deerfield Beach nonprofit group Arlington Park Family left that position after misgivings about the way the charity was spending the $30,000 it was given by the city.
Archie McKeithen, 80, remembers attending a meeting in 2007, shortly after Arlington Park Family won the grant. He says he was astonished to learn that the charity's president, Mae Frances Feagin, had already spent part of their new fortune. "I said 'The board of directors is supposed to decide what to do with the money," McKeithen recalls.
Neither Feagin nor any of the other officers could put McKeithen's mind at ease. "I said, 'I'm through with this club. Something ain't right.'"
The city's new leadership seems to agree. That $30,000 is now part of a forensic audit being conducted by Kessler International, a firm hired this past week by acting Deerfield Beach city manager Burgess Hanson, based on concerns about the city's accounting practices.
Feagin could not be reached at a phone number listed under name. Nor was the phone number for Arlington Park Family accepting messages. Neither Feagin nor any other member of the charity has responded to letters from City Attorney Andy Maurodis, who is seeking documentation for how the nonprofit spent the money it was given by the city.
The original mission of Arlington Park Family, according to McKeithen, was simply to assist the city's elderly population in whatever way other care providers were falling short -- such as with tasks made more complicated by a hurricane.
But the charity needed money for those services, and it didn't have much until the windfall from the city, says McKeithen. He doesn't recall whether Feagin listed all the expenses she paid with the money. He just remembers being disturbed when he learned that she paid $500 to a consultant who apparently had the task of advising Feagin on how to spend the rest of the money.
As far as McKeithen understood it, that was for the board to decide -- and that should have happened only after the $30,000 check had been given to him for deposit in the group's account. "I was the treasurer, so I was supposed to take it," he says.
"They were saying, 'We did this' and 'We did that.' What was this 'We' stuff?" Whatever it was, McKeithen wasn't part of it. He says Feagin tried to stop him from leaving the meeting, but he'd seen enough. McKeithen hasn't been involved with the Arlington Park Family since. He says he doesn't have a clue what happened to the $30,000.
Nor was he aware that his former group was part of an investigation. "I'm glad I left before the money was spent," he says, with a wry chuckle. "I figured this was going to happen. If you have public money, you have to give an accounting of it."
That rule applies to the original owner of that public money: the city of Deerfield Beach. So the question is why it took three years and an interim city manager before someone finally decided to find out where that money went. In a few weeks, the Kessler audit should provide some important clues.
Activist Chaz Stevens was first to sound the alarm about Arlington Park Family on his blog, Acts of Sedition.