Posts Tagged ‘Alison Bethel McKenzie’


Investigation into Region 10 money still underway; new SPJ financial regulations approved

Some people have asked about the May 21 email from the SPJ board of directors (see below) about the possible misuse of money in a regional fund in Region 10.

The investigation is still underway, but these are some basic details:

• The board and SPJ HQ have been working with chapters in Region 10 (which covers Washington state, Oregon, Montana, Idaho and Alaska) to figure out what happened.
• A member of the Western Washington SPJ chapter filed a report with the Seattle Police Department on May 10.
• The police report (a public record) says that while Ethan Chung was Region 10 director, thousands of dollars of SPJ money was taken out of the bank during a two-year period for use that was unauthorized.
• Chung was Region 10 director from about October 2015 to January 2018, when he resigned.
• In February, the board appointed Donald W. Meyers as Region 10 director to replace Chung.
• The local chapters and SPJ HQ have gotten access to the bank records and are reviewing them.
We will share more information about the case as it develops.
***
As the May 21 email notes, SPJ has strengthened its oversight on how money in regional funds is kept and monitored. I was part of a task force (along with at-large national board member Lauren Bartlett and regional directors Michael Koretzky, Kelly Kissel and Ed Otte) that came up with the new measures. We presented them to the full board, which approved them in April.
The task force is working on additional measures to strengthen financial practices for pro and campus chapters.
At the chapter level, SPJ has had a few cases of money being taken from bank accounts without authorization.

The Greater Los Angeles Pro chapter went through this with unauthorized withdrawals from 2009 to 2011.

The Oklahoma Pro chapter learned in 2012 that money was missing. Scott Cooper, who was the chapter’s secretary-treasurer and Region 8 director, later admitted to embezzling more than $43,000 from the chapter. He was ordered to serve four weekends in jail and repay the money.

***
This was the May 21 email on the current Region 10 investigation:
In the interest of transparency, we are writing to alert you that we have filed a police report with the Seattle Police Department over alleged misappropriation of funds from Region 10 bank accounts.
An internal investigation is ongoing. Based upon information to date, it is our understanding that the alleged misappropriation is isolated to one individual.
The national board, headquarters staff and local chapter leaders are cooperating with authorities to get as clear and complete a picture as possible of the extent of the unauthorized activity. Donald W. Meyers, the new Region 10 director, is helping to lead our efforts. We will update you as we get additional information.
To help avoid a similar situation in the future, the national board adopted new rules for regional accounts at its April 14 board meeting. The new rules further enhance the organization’s accountability measures.
If you have any questions, please contact Alison Bethel McKenzie, SPJ executive director, at abmckenzie@spj.org.
Sincerely,
National Board of Directors
Society of Professional Journalists

SPJ/SDX boards: budgets, bylaws and more

Some highlights of the most recent (April 14/15) SPJ and SDX national board meetings in Indianapolis:

Sigma Delta Chi Foundation board (April 14):

• SPJ Executive Director Alison Bethel McKenzie told the board that more than 100 applications had come in for the newly created Journalist on Call position. The goal is to fill the position by mid-May. The person does not have to live in Indianapolis, but must be willing to travel and should be: comfortable talking to many types of people; patient; adventurous; mobile; a fundraiser.

The scope of the position has changed several times. McKenzie said the current focus is picking specific communities and exploring public trust in journalism. The idea of “helicoptering” in during breaking news that involves the press has moved down the list of priorities. She called the job duties “a work in progress.”

• The board approved a $1.67M budget for FY19 (see p. 12 of the board packet). About 4.5 percent, or $54K, will be set aside for SDX grants. Of that, $43K goes to SPJ for EIJ 18. The remaining $11K will be divided among several grant applicants. (see p. 42)

• The board agreed to proceed with a bylaws change to shift oversight of a Quill magazine endowment fund to the board. It’s a complicated process that requires votes by SPJ convention delegates in both 2018 and 2019. (see p. 45)

• Board member Bill Ketter asked if it’s times to change the name of the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation Board to the Society of Professional Journalists Foundation Board, to make it clearer to the public what the board is. Board member Todd Gillman noted a push in recent years to change SPJ from the Society of Professional Journalists to the Society for Professional Journalism, which could be a factor. The simple solution: Use only the acronym — SPJ Foundation Board.

• Board member Fred Brown said he has updated the SPJ ethics book. It will be online only. Other board members suggested making it a membership incentive and adding a video component.

• Board member Paul Fletcher said an effort to create an SPJ history book has floundered. Someone who was going to work on it stopped several years ago.

• Board President Robert Leger said he is not going to run for re-election this year.

• The board went into executive session to get legal advice. After returning to open session, the board voted to act on the matter discussed in executive session, according to the majority’s wishes. Board member Robyn Davis Sekula was the only board member opposed.

SPJ board (April 14):

• SPJ President Rebecca Baker said the “Press for Education” campaign resulted in 100 people speaking about journalism in schools in seven weeks.

• The board formally approved Don Meyers as the Region 10 director (even though the board, during a conference call in February, already chose Meyers to fill the Region 10 position after Ethan Chung resigned). Region 10 includes Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington.

• The board approved a $1.21M budget for FY19 (see p. 14 of the board packet). It’s a deficit budget and includes some cuts.

• The board approved three new SPJ chapters — William Paterson University in New Jersey, Augusta University in Georgia, and Georgia Southern University.

• The board approved a new, stronger policy for oversight of regional funds, with tighter procedures and more accountability. Each regional director must work with a regional treasurer, and both get training. Chapter presidents in that region must see copies of the regional fund bank statements. A regional director who does not follow the procedures could be removed from office.

• The board went into executive session to discuss a) the next group of Fellows of the Society and b) a question about a specific company’s involvement in EIJ18 and c) to get legal advice. After returning to regular session, the board voted on a motion by Region 1 Director Jane Primerano to take no action on a matter discussed in executive session. The motion passed, with four board members (Patti Gallagher Newberry, Lauren Bartlett, Leticia Lee Steffen, Andy Schotz) opposed.

SPJ board (April 15):

• The board approved a motion to proceed with a change in the bylaws pertaining to the Quill magazine endowment fund (see the SDX summary above).

• The board talked about EIJ18, including programs and the Mark of Excellence Awards event.

• The board unanimously approved a “position profile” that lists the ideal qualifications for members of the national board (see p. 46), a policy for board appointments (p. 48) and reimbursement stipends (p. 49). The board also approved having existing people stay on the board until their positions expire through the bylaws changes.

• The board went into executive session to discuss EIJ21, which is scheduled to be in Minneapolis.

• At the request of student board member Hayley Harding, the board unanimously voted to support the national Save Student Newsrooms movement.

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