CMSA President Michael Erwin responded to emailed questions from Windy City Times on the financial scandal, which was not made public until late January, after it broke in Windy City Times.
Windy City Times: Why was this matter not mentioned to CMSA membership before news of the scandal broke in the Windy City Times?
Michael Erwin: The board was first and foremost interested in recovering any misappropriated funds and taking appropriate disciplinary action. On the advice of counsel, the board did not want to compromise its legal options by publicizing details of its investigation, legal strategy or settlement negotiations.
[Note: CMSA issued a statement directly to CMSA members and via social media Jan. 31. "The statement was issued in response to member questions following media reports and inquiries," Erwin said. "The board has answered all inquiries related to this matter including inquiries made before Jan. 31, 2017."]
WCT: Was Jack Neilsen's roommate the treasurer of the board during any of the misappropriation of funds?
ME: The treasurer of the board was Neilsen's roommate from June 2014 to November 2015. Some of the unverified reimbursements occurred during this time period, though a substantial majority occurred before that time, and several took place afterwards. [That former roommate of Neilsen's is still on the CMSA board, still serving as treasurer.]
WCT: How many of the current 11 board members were in place during the theft period and who are still on today?
ME: Eight current board members were in place during the period of the unverified reimbursements: Michael Erwin ( since FY2012-13 ), Felipe Rojas ( since FY2015-16 ), Matt Simpson ( since FY2011-12 ), Joshua Dehnke ( since FY2015-16 ), Michael Rice ( since FY2011-12 ), Julie Norris ( since FY2014-15 ), Christina Roberts ( since FY2015-16 ), and Diane Carniello ( since FY2015-16 ).
WCT: This is the second major financial scandal in CMSA history. How did a second one happen?
ME: I do not know what 'major financial scandal' this question references. The current board is generally aware of possible misappropriation of funds from around 2006 or 2007, when no current board member was on the board. While the current board does not know the details of that situation, its understanding is that, as a result of that situation, the board at that time put in place a rule requiring two signatures by any elected board members on reimbursement checks.
WCT: Neilsen received a computer that CMSA paid forwhy, where is it now and do other commissioners have [them as well]?
ME: On Oct. 30, 2010, CMSA wrote a check to Best Buy for purchase of a computer for Neilsen to use for open softball. This purchase was made before any current board member was on the board, but the current board understands generally that the computer was sought to manage open softball and was determined to be an appropriate use of funds at the time.
While individuals may question in retrospect whether this purchase was necessary, the board has no reason to believe that any fraud or misappropriation was committed regarding this purchase. [Erwin did not say where said computer is now, nor if other commissioners also were purchased a computer for use with their sports.]
WCT: CMSA paid for a weekend rental car so Neilsen could attend Open Sunday Sunday Softball league gamesplease confirm, how much was this, and why was this approved?
ME: CMSA only reimbursed Neilsen for a rental car used to transport equipment for open softball's opening day and awards for open softball's awards party, as other leagues have done in the past. CMSA did not reimburse Neilsen for any other rental car use. While individuals may question in retrospect whether this was necessary, the reimbursements were in line with the practice of other leagues, and the board has no reason to believe that any fraud or misappropriation was committed regarding these reimbursements.
WCT: Why do you feel CMSA acted in CMSA's best interest on this matter if the situation was never brought to the attention of the members?
ME: The board was first and foremost interested in recovering any misappropriated funds and taking appropriate disciplinary action, which it has done. On the advice of counsel, the board did not want to compromise its legal options by publicizing details of its investigation, legal strategy, or settlement negotiations.
WCT: Is there anything overall on this matter that you would do differently, or wish you had done differently?
ME: With the benefit of hindsight, the current board, as well as past presidents of CMSA, have indicated that they would have re-evaluated CMSA's reimbursement policies and put in place more stringent safeguards and controls to prevent something like this from happening. Once again, while no safeguards or controls are completely foolproof, the board believes the new safeguards and controls will prevent something like this from happening again.
See main story, "Details emerge about
CMSA financial scandal," at www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/Details-emerge-about-CMSA-financial-scandal-/58062.html .