Nonprofit paid $17,000 in conjunction with fundraiser
LAFAYETTE — An Acadiana Outreach Center board member said Monday that a $17,000 charge to a local travel agency that was paid on a company-issued credit card last year was in connection with the nonprofit’s annual fundraiser, Palates and Paté.
The payment to the travel agency came to light last week in a lawsuit filed by Valerie Keller, a former chief executive officer who alleges that the nonprofit kept a company-issued credit card in her name and has since failed to pay off the $30,000 balance accrued on the card.
Rob Robison, who sits on the agency’s executive committee, said he was able to comment on the $17,000 credit card charge to the travel agency but was not in a position to speak further because the agency’s legal counsel has advised board members not to comment on the litigation.
Keller alleges that she was assured by her successor, Rick Newton, that her name would be removed from the American Express card and that she would be held harmless for any balance after her date of resignation in December 2009.
Instead, the lawsuit says, the agency failed to remove Keller’s name and continued to use the credit card, accumulating debt of $31,879. Keller is suing the AOC and its executive committee.
Robison said that the $17,000 payment to Associated Travel was for donated trips. He said the travel agency purchased trips at discounted prices for AOC, which then auctioned off the trips during fundraising efforts.
Robison said the $17,000 payment represented only a portion what the nonprofit actually owed the travel agency.
“With everything going on, (the travel agency) essentially never got compensated until (Acadiana Outreach) sold all the real estate,” Robison said.
The financially struggling Acadiana Outreach Center eventually sold nine of its properties for $1.3 million to the Lafayette Public Trust Financing Authority. The nonprofit also fired Newton and replaced him with Jill Meaux.
Robison did not have exact figures on the amount the AOC owed the travel agency, other than to say “it was a big chunk of change.”
Robison said Newton reimbursed the nonprofit for any personal expense charged to the card before Newton left last year.
Keller alleges in the lawsuit that she was promised by board members and by Meaux that the debt would be paid in full and the account would be closed after the center sold off its assets last year.
Keller is seeking reasonable damages and compensation for the loss of credit capacity, loss of credit expediency and increases in out-of-pocket costs.
, the suit says.