Old alt account for obvious reasons. I will try to make this as succinct as possible.
I want help/insight. I work at a small nonprofit as director. To call our board "dysfunctional" is generous. They've absolutely acted immorally and I genuinely believe some of their actions are also illegal. I'll break up major transgressions by what I see as immoral vs. illegal, and then I would like insight on if or how I should go about bringing these things to light.
Minor context: we are about 5 years old, an educational nonprofit focused on kids and STEM/STEAM, we provide our own programming as well as work as a vendor for the local school district. I have been with the company for almost 2 years, and working as DOO (there is no ED position) for just over a year.
What I believe is illegal:
- The previous director was inexperienced and an (I believe) unknowing victim of wage theft. They were paid for 40 hours a week at a rate of $14-$17/hr (three years, a dollar raise every year), with no overtime as though they were an exempt employee. I estimate the old director could claim as much as 25K per year in wage theft (a check we cannot cash).
- They use grant funding for operations. All funds are dumped into 1 bank account, and most of it goes to overhead. We ask for grants primarily for "supplies" and the grants are very obviously restricted funds. No salary, contract services, rent, or operational costs are included in the request. The money is not tracked, but in no year do I in any way believe we have come close to spending the grant amount on "supplies" or anything else we have outlined in our requests.
- Legally questionable(?): the President has used the nonprofit to leverage donations for a private sports team organization their son is in, and that is run by their friend, to build a large indoor arena. We did get a "tutoring center" (small front office with [Our Name]'s Tutoring Center painted on the wall), but we do not have regular or free access to it, and it has more or less never been used. Because the 'mission-related' aspect of this solicitation of donation is nowhere hear justified, I suspect this is also a misuse of our organization's NPO status.
What I believe is immoral or suspicious:
- The founder is the Board President, and always has been. There is no VP, and their spouse is the Treasurer. All but one board officer has direct conflicts of interest with the President.
- Only the President has any active role at all. No other members have so much as stepped foot into the facility for at least 18 months, many for much longer. We have not had a Board Meeting since I was promoted, and I do not know when the last one was. I don't believe there has ever been an election or rotation of board members; I know it has been over 3 years at a minimum.
- The President has absolute control of our bank account. I do balance/reconcile in quickbooks, but no debit card or check book available to me. I cannot always verify why any given check is being written, making it relatively easy to embezzle money. To be clear: I have NOT been able to catch any blatant embezzlement, but I have seen many checks that I could not necessarily be certain were legitimate.
- The President/Founder and their family uses our amazon business account for personal use. Spot-checking transactions, a different card is used. I have no way of verifying if that card is linked to our bank account.
- I to this day do not have an employment contract. The work computer stopped working early on, and I have been using 2 personal computers for work (one stays there so my employees can use it), and have not been supplied a replacement in over a year.
- The President's spouse/the Treasurer is deep in Qanon, the President themselves less so. I have been verbally berated for closing for a day to clean after a volunteer popped positive by the Treasurer (in the background of the phone call I made to the President), they berated me for wanting to follow vaccine mandates, and they berate me for having my staff mask since I was not allowed to require proof of vaccinations. I have been criticized for temp checks at the door, and I am not allowed to have guests mask. The Prez do not follow any of the policies I put in place if/when they come around.
- While working during quarantine (helping essential working families/those without internet do distance learning in our space), it took a massive fight to get my staff a raise, which came in the form eventually of 'COVID pay'. Our staff is paid less than regular minimum wage (company smaller than 35 employees) but if the two regular staff members left to work full-time at their second jobs (which pay more), or even at a local fast food restaurant (pays over 50% more) we would fail instantly. They work VERY hard, writing curriculum during normal operations and, at the time, helping as many as 15 different children at the same time with their schoolwork. and when asking for their raises, I was told, verbatim: "I am not going to play [employee] to walk around and [play with kids] once this is over". To be clear, this is NOT what my staff does, but it's telling about how the founder views their own operation.
- In spite of refusing to pay any of us a living wage, and harping on 'payroll' costs, any request for spending to improve the facility or fund new programming is turned down, in the name of making sure there is enough money to keep us all "on payroll". This is not only toxic for us (all working 1-3 jobs, none of us make enough to rent even a 1 bed in our own town, lead educator is also a single mother). This includes spending on a new facility, or looking for one, as our landlord has confirmed he is looking for new tenants for our space. The reasoning is obviously hallow, which increases my suspicion that the money is being stockpiled for a different reason.
- Control of our paypal was recently wrested from me for restocking the gift shop and making minor improvements to the facility through it. I did send in a request to board members for large spending initiatives, got no response, so proceeded with small ones a month later. President/Treasurer found out separately, Prez was unhappy but understood with explanation, Qanon spouse found out 2 weeks later and berated me via text (through President's cell phone) and changed paypal password. I now have 0 access to operational spending and no ability to print materials, stock our store, or buy supplies unable to be purchased through amazon.
I'm sorry that was less than brief, and it's honestly easily identifiable by anyone close to the situation, but the details feel relevant to me. I want to take this to a local newspaper, to go public, and to alert our grantors. I have pushed back on much of this (and been hard-nosed on Grant spending and not allowing the wage theft issue to occur for myself), but with the Board having SO much control but being SO unavailable, I do not know any other way.
I am prepared to lose my job over this. I have been looking for other jobs anyway. My staff deserves better (they deserve the world), and I deserve better. My biggest desire is for a new board, and my biggest fear is that we will be forced to shut down. I would love to stay and make this NPO better, grow it and grow with it, and I really believe it has legs. But I fear we may lose funding, and I fear I will do more than nix the board, but also kill any chance at fulfilling a mission.
My main questions are:
Is there any insight to the story in general? Am I being bitter/a crybaby over nothing? Is this a situation worth whistleblowing? To be clear, I've brought these concerns up (gently) to the President.
Should I find a lawyer first? Can I go straight to a local paper? Or several?
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