Whistleblower: non-profit had 'blatant conflict of interest'

The whistleblower said "everyone overlooked a blatant conflict of interest. "
The whistleblower said "everyone overlooked a blatant conflict of interest. "

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - A self-proclaimed whistleblower is talking about what she calls "questionable practices" of a local non-profit headed up by Madison County Commissioner Bob Harrison. This comes as the Huntsville City School district calls for an audit and the state Attorney General to get involved in finding out how $40,000 they gave to the non-profit was spent.

The allegations go back to 2008, the same time Huntsville City Schools handed the non-profits in question $40,000 to tutor and counsel children. The whistleblower worked with the non-profit and wrote the grants. She said she came forward to report her concerns.

The whistleblower did not want to go on-camera and requested we not release her name, but gave the following statement: "I wrote the truth. At the time, I felt intimidated and frustrated because everyone seemed to overlook improprieties and a blatant conflict of interest. I felt the need to write the Department of Education hoping someone would stop this abuse of power."

She said in her 2008 letter, Harrsion created two non-profits: The Circle Project and the Northwest Huntsville Community Services Organization. Both were awarded thousands in at-risk funding for the work of tutoring children. $40,000 came from Huntsville City Schools, $30,000 from the City of Huntsville, and $38,000 from the Madison County Commission that same year.

She writes that the non-profits were not supposed to be awarded that money in the first place because it was going to a "quasi-governmental" agency. She said Commissioner Harrison used his position to also get thousands in county money to go to his own non-profits. On top of that, operations were run out of District 6 offices and the non-profits had no employees because they were all on county payroll.

She said she was validated when an independent audit was done on Northwest by CPA Cynthia Minter. We obtained the audit where Minter offers recommendations to improve efficiency, internal controls and compliance. The audit questions expenditures made in 2005 and 2006 with county funds, such as $1,000 going to the African-American Chamber of Commerce, $200 to a retirement banquet for City Councilman Richard Showers, and $90 Master Cleaners – with no reason given for the expense.

In 2006, $490 is shown to go to the Alabama Democratic Conference and several donations to local churches. The audit goes on to say usually non-profits receiving local, state and federal funds cannot make donations to religious or politically-affiliated entities.

Bob Harrison has not responded to inquiries for comment, though he did tell our cameras last week he anticipates addressing the allegations in a statement sometime this week.

We also reached out to Councilman Richard Showers and the African-American Chamber of Commerce and have yet to hear back.

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