Finances in question for nonprofit aimed at helping house veterans

Finances in question for nonprofit aimed at helping house veterans

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A Charlotte nonprofit pledges to rehab houses for homeless veterans, helping them on the path to owning their very own place, but a former board member said he stepped down over major financial concerns.

Veterans Path Up was created in 2015 with a mission to help homeless veterans rent rehabbed houses until they're financially secure enough to buy them.

Alan Elam helped form the nonprofit and was the treasurer.

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Elam told Channel 9 he struggled to keep track of donations, spending and debt. He said executive director Kenneth Lacy would not provide all of the financial documents that Elam said he needed.

"I started having more questions that aren't answered,” Elam said.

Elam resigned as treasurer in 2017 then filed a complaint about Veterans Path Up with the North Carolina attorney general, alleging improper bookkeeping, banking/credit card/debit card personal charges and poor documentation of donations.

“We're in the process of analyzing the case at this moment,” North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein said.

For more than six months, Stein's office has been investigating Veterans Path Up.

In February, he sent this letter requesting 23 different types of documents from meeting minutes  to donation records to information on how salaries are set for officers, like Lacy.

Lacy makes $96,000 a year.

“My office is responsible to making sure that nonprofits provide the services they're supposed to, and that when they get charitable dollars from people and the government gives them a tax break, that it actually goes for a good purpose,” Stein said.

Veterans Path Up sent letters to potential donors claiming, “We have the capacity to rehab one home per month now and would like to move towards 2/month in Charlotte before the end of Q3/2017."

But since the nonprofit was founded 54 months ago, they have rehabbed a total of 6 homes.

Charity officials cite a shortage of available homes and contractors.

Channel 9 learned the Better Business Bureau has also tried to obtain information about Veterans Path Up, sending several requests with no response.

The BBB now lists the nonprofit as "did not disclose", stating it cannot determine if it meets BBB standards.

North Carolina's secretary of state requires that nonprofits have what's known as a charitable solicitation license, but Channel 9 found Veterans Path Up asked for and accepted donations, including donations of homes from the City of Charlotte, for nearly four years without that license.

I don't think it makes us look good, but it also doesn't get in the way of our mission,” Veterans Path Up board member Patrick Twiest said.

Both Twiest and Lacy blamed Elam, their former treasurer.

They claimed Elam established the organization's nonprofit status and should have known they needed a charitable solicitation license.

“I relied upon Alan as being a knowledgeable accountant and someone who purported to have set up dozens and dozens of nonprofits,” Lacy said.

“We trusted the original board to set this up correctly, and they really messed it up,” Twiest said.

Elam argued board members ignored his financial concerns and his warnings about rules the charity must follow.

The attorney general is now trying to find the truth about how donations to Veterans Path Up are used and if the nonprofit lives up to the mission of helping homeless veterans.

So far, veterans have purchased two of the six homes the nonprofit rehabbed.

Board members said the charity is expanding to Richmond, Virginia and Gary, Indiana.

April 12 is the deadline for them to respond to the Attorney General's Civil Investigative Demand letter.

If they don’t respond or provide inadequate answers, they could face contempt of court charges.