MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) -A North Mississippi charity shut down after failing to show the state how they were spending tens of thousands of dollars.
Tunica Teens in Action has been in the community since 1999, but recently they got a cease and desist letter over questionable business practices.
The organization’s Executive director, Ashley McKay-Dandridge says the state got it all wrong.
“We were utterly shocked,” said Mckay-Dandridge.
The non-profit on Pritchard street in Tunica was shut down by Secretary of State Delbert Hoseman for failing to show that all charitable funds were being applied to its’ charitable purpose.
According to court documents, the charity failed to keep accurate records for 3 years and couldn’t explain the more than $160,000.00 the three directors or the organization were paid above their reported salaries. “Those tens of thousands of dollars that they were talking about were over a period of 2 or 3 years,” said McKay-Dandridge.
“Most of the time they were reimbursements for travel or reimbursement for food things that seems small to the average person, but if you look at it over time those things can add up.” McKay says she and others would travel up to 2 to 3 times a week to places like Jackson, MS and Atlanta advocating for public education reform.
“We are extremely vocal about Mississippi children especially students in Mississippi, a free, healthy quality first rate education,” said McKay-Dandridge. The Secretary of State also flagged the organization for allowing a man convicted of a felony crime against a child to work at the non-profit that worked directly with children. “I will say the person that you speak of was wrongfully convicted. Now hindsight is always 20-20 and what I said earlier if there were mistakes made we will apologize for those mistakes,” said McKay-Dandridge.
Hoseman said in a statement, “Mississippians are the most giving people in the nation and when organizations like this violate the law, they must be held accountable.” The state has now dissolved the charity. “People in the community in Tunica were coming together to try to make a better place for us to live so we’re going to continue to do the work that we do because it’s our passion. It’s our community,” said McKay-Dandridge. The charity was also fined an additional $5,000.00