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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    ASA: Lack of oversight caused theft

    Maceo Brown
    Maceo Brown

    PHOENIX – The Arizona Students’ Association’s former executive director, Maceo Brown, was able to steal an estimated 20 percent of the total ASA budget for four years without getting caught because he had total control over finances and little internal oversight, ASA directors said.

    Jess Koldoff, a spokesman for ASA, said Brown was able to steal more than $200,000 because he had absolute control over ASA business and financial affairs during his years as executive director and used deceptive practices in order to divert ASA funds for private use.

    According to court documents filed in a civil suit against Brown in an attempt to recover the amount, Brown “”intentionally created annual budgets for the student Board of Directors of the Arizona Students’ Association which did not

    accurately reflect the correct amount of funds which the Arizona Students’ Association received from the Arizona public universities.””

    By creating an intentionally low budget, ASA alleges, Brown was able to create a secret slush fund for his own personal use.

    Brown resigned from his ASA position Jan. 29.

    Since Brown’s resignation, the nonprofit student advocacy organization has hired a forensic accountant to investigate his transactions over his tenure as executive director.

    ASA estimates Brown stole $209,056.31 from the organization since he was hired in May 2001.

    Serena Unrein, the acting executive director for ASA, estimated the current ASA budget to be around $250,000. The ASA budget comes from a $1-per-semester fee from each student at public universities in Arizona.

    Erin Hertzog, acting student body president, said despite Brown funneling money out of ASA, she could not remember any lobbying effort being cancelled due to insufficient funds.

    “”We went on all the same trips and did as much lobbying as we did in the past,”” Hertzog said.

    The court documents suggest Brown used ASA funds to write checks to himself and his wife, made electronic fund transfers to pay off charges on his personal American Express card and made several large cash withdrawals.

    ASA central office staff became suspicious of Brown’s financial transactions in early January, when a staff member trying to get ASA insurance reinstated came across an ASA bank statement from December 2005 listing more than $500 in ATM withdrawals.

    When confronted with suspicious charges, Brown reportedly e-mailed six months of bank records to the board of directors for ASA on Jan. 25.

    Ryan Anderson, an attorney hired by ASA, said the bank records were compared to the records provided by the bank and were found to be fraudulent.

    Anderson said Brown could have used image-editing software, like Adobe Photoshop, to manipulate the records.

    He said Brown intentionally altered documents to make them seem legitimate He gave the example of a $71.24 charge from the Olive Garden that was altered to appear like the charge was from Kinko’s rather than the restaurant.

    “”There were numerous times where transactions were just deleted,”” Anderson said.

    The board voted to require itself to perform monthly reviews of ASA bank statements and internal audits twice a year and to require formal financial management and fraud-detection training at its annual board training sessions.

    “”Despite this unfortunate situation, the Arizona Students’ Association remains committed to advocating on behalf of access and affordability to higher education,”” Koldoff said. “”We take our responsibility on behalf of the students of Arizona very seriously, and these steps will help us prevent and detect fraud from going forward.

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