Miss. NAACP’s charity agrees to fix spending

EMILY WAGSTER PETTUS, Associated Press

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi NAACP president Derrick Johnson said Wednesday that the group’s charity, One Voice, has strengthened its own financial controls since examiners with the secretary of state’s office uncovered spending problems.

One Voice board chairwoman Safiya R. Omari signed a consent order Aug. 21, agreeing to fix problems the found by the agency, which regulates charities in Mississippi. The agency posted the document (http://1.usa.gov/15x3NrQ) to its website Wednesday.

One Voice was formed in Mississippi to help “historically disadvantaged communities” after hurricanes struck in 2005, according to the group’s website. It also has a chapter in Louisiana.

The consent order in Mississippi says One Voice spent thousands on expenses not related to its stated purpose of “improving the quality of life for African-Americans and other disenfranchised communities,” including $2,400 for an NAACP web page. The order says the civil rights group reimbursed One Voice for that expense.

The order also says One Voice spent $9,348 to send eight people to the NAACP Image Awards in Los Angeles. The order says travel expenses to the Image Awards are allowed for the executive director and a board member, but the charity must collect $7,011 to cover expenses of the six other people. The order did not list dates for the expenses.

The order says that since the charities division started its examination of One Voice, the group collected reimbursement from various people for $7,374 it spent for pizza, movie rentals, Broadway tickets, spa treatments and other expenses not related to its charitable work.

The consent order shows One Voice has the same Jackson address as the Mississippi NAACP, and the phone number listed on the “contact us” section of the One Voice website rang to the NAACP office Wednesday.

Johnson issued a statement saying: “In 2010, as One Voice Mississippi was undergoing rapid growth, we needed to strengthen our financial controls. We have long since evaluated our former financial policies and procedures, and in accordance with state and federal laws have made the requisite changes to ensure the highest level of compliance.”

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann declined to comment on the consent order. His spokeswoman, Pamela Weaver, said all the relevant information is in the document.

The secretary of state’s office has a charities division that regularly examines finances and other documents of nonprofit groups that raise and spend money in Mississippi. One Voice agreed to correct spending problems without going through an administrative hearing, according to the consent order.

Hosemann, a Republican, is in the process of setting administrative rules for a law that will require Mississippi voters to show photo identification. The NAACP says the law will disproportionately hurt poor and minority residents.

“One Voice is committed to advocating for the rights of all Mississippians to cast a ballot without threat of intimidation or voter suppression,” Johnson said Wednesday.

The consent order says the secretary of state’s charities division “has concerns” about $4,031 that One Voice paid for training and hotel expenses “as these expenses were billed to the NAACP.” However, the order says the charity did not have to seek reimbursement for the money because Johnson, attorney Carroll Rhodes and two other people submitted notarized statements saying that training, lodging and other expenses related to redistricting were included in the $4,031 and the spending was “solely for One Voice’s benefit and purpose.”

Rhodes represented the state NAACP in a 2012 lawsuit that unsuccessfully challenged Mississippi’s legislative redistricting plan.

State law requires charities to register with the secretary of state’s office. The consent order says the registration for One Voice expired Nov. 30, and the group filed an incomplete renewal form. The order says One Voice should not be soliciting money, including grant applications, until it is registered.

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