FBI probes United Way of Santa Rosa

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is researching documents an agent took from the Milton office of United Way of Santa Rosa County on Thursday, and the charity put three officials on paid administrative leave.

The federal probe coincides with an audit that United Way officials have hired the Pensacola accounting firm of Warren Averett to perform, starting immediately,

“It’s going to be tough,” said Kyle Holley, the charity’s director of gifts and grants. “It’s always tough when you look at yourself.”

Holley confirmed that he isn’t among the United Way officials put on leave but said Executive Director Guy Thompson—former mayor of Milton–is among them. Holley and United Way board member Pamela Holt declined to name the other two officials who were put on leave.

Thompson couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

In a prepared statement released by Holt, who is also a paid spokeswoman for the City of Milton, the charity said, “Recently, the United Way of Santa Rosa County Board received information regarding accounting irregularities in regard to our finances.”

The statement added that the charity is “committed to transparency and accountability in reference to stewardship of funds entrusted to us by our many generous donors.”

Murky financial picture

The latest financial figures available on United Way of Santa Rosa are for 2016. They indicate that the charity had revenue of $299,182 in 2016, with expenses of $486,390—creating an apparent deficit of $187,208.

But Holt said she couldn’t speak about the matter beyond the prepared statement.

Holley declined more detailed comment too, but said, “It will be a very intense audit.”

He added, “As far as I can tell the organization has never been audited.”

The charity’s volunteer board of directors is a virtual who’s who of Santa Rosa County leadership, including School Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick; L.L. “Bubba” Drinkard, chief deputy of the Santa Rosa Property Appraiser’s Office; and Randy Jorgenson, planning director of the City of Milton.

Despite the Milton-based charity’s strong connections to that city, current Mayor Wesley Meiss said the investigation isn’t connected to the municipality.

“It’s unfortunate for the Thompson family and for the city,” said Meiss. “We look forward to this matter being cleared up and moving forward.”

Still, the probe could have political implications in Milton, where Meiss is running for re-election against former city attorney Heather Lindsay, an ally of Thompson, who lost a contentious race against Meiss four years ago in a bid to hold on to his position as mayor.

Holley expressed confidence: “I’m very proud of our board. They are continuing to support us and they have a very good plan.”

FBI officials weren’t immediately available for comment.

 

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