Sunday, April 25, 2010

Illinois Non-profit focusing on environmental education files lawsuit over unnoticed theft

Chicago's non-profit Resource Center, which focuses on environmental education, has accused a former employee of embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars over a period of at least six years-and it's suing the accountant it says failed to notice.In a lawsuit filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County, the Resource Center says Lee Tockman and his eponymous company didn't use accepted auditing practices that would have shed light on the embezzlement of some $600,000 by the employee.
Mr. Tockman didn't return phone calls.In its lawsuit, the Resource Center says the employee forged checks to herself and then hid the theft by altering statements from 2003 to 2009. The center's general manager eventually noticed the discrepancies.The lawsuit says the employee was fired and reported to law-enforcement officials. The U.S. attorney's office says no charges have been filed.
For its part, the 35-year-old Resource Center is emerging from a difficult financial year. With manufacturing down in the recession, its income from recyclables dropped.
But things have rebounded in the recycling business, says founder Ken Dunn: We're in good shape again.
The money lost each year in the alleged embezzlement was a fraction of its annual budget, which ranged from $1.4 million to $1.8 million during that time. It's not so much, in the big scheme of things, but we're disappointed we didn't get the best standards to catch such a problem, Mr. Dunn says.
His non-profit agency is known around town for collecting unused food from restaurants and grocery stores and delivering it to food pantries and shelters. It also runs City Farm, a sustainable vegetable garden straddling Cabrini-Green and the Gold Coast. Buyers of its produce include Frontera Grill and the Ritz-Carlton.

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