Local Politics

Audit: Nonprofit's Computers Used for Campaigning

Posted February 18, 2008

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— A state lawmaker used computers in a nonprofit foundation she heads to produce materials for her re-election campaign, according to a state audit released Monday.

The critical audit marked the latest difficulty for state Rep. Mary McAllister, D-Cumberland, who was fined last year for depositing campaign contributions into her personal account and for repaying herself for a nonexistent campaign loan.

McAllister is executive director of Operation Sickle Cell, which promotes awareness of sickle cell anemia statewide and operates an AIDS program in Cumberland County.

Auditors examined the hard drives of 12 computers from the nonprofit's office and found re-election letters to voters, scripts for campaign advertisements and files related to McAllister's work in the General Assembly. The audit noted that using the computers for political purposes violated the group's nonprofit status and broke state law because state grants were used to purchase the equipment.

The organization disputed the audit's findings, noting that an Operation Sickle Cell employee served as her campaign treasurer in 2006 and did work for the campaign outside of business hours. She also noted that the political records the employee put together amounted to 1 percent of the total files on the computers.

The audit was prompted last June by questions over spending and McAllister's $115,000 salary at Operation Sickle Cell. Investigators determined her salary was comparable to those of other nonprofit executives with similar experience, and they found "minor costs" that were incurred because of inadequate financial controls.

"(Operation) Sickle Cell does a very good job of providing services that the grant funds pay for," said Janet Hayes, who oversaw the state audit.

In a statement released Monday by attorney Jonathan Charleston, McAllister called the audit "a prolonged political witch hunt" and said the State Auditor's Office "abused its discretion" in handling the audit.

"The unjustified conduct of (the State Auditor's Office) gives credence to the argument that the state auditor should be appointed and not elected to avoid political influence in connection with state audits such as what occurred in this instance," McAllister said in the statement.

"When you have politics in the midst of it, it generally spills over into what the conduct of the auditor is," Charleston said.

Operation Sickle Cell managers also were criticized in the audit as trying to obstruct investigators attempts to review the nonprofit's records. The State Auditor's Office had to enlist the support of a Superior Court judge to enforce subpoenas to access the computer hard drives before the nonprofit agreed to turn the records over for inspection, according to the audit report.

“I believe that Operation Sickle Cell can serve its clients best by adopting a posture of openness and transparency,” State Auditor Leslie Merritt said in a statement. “Creating an atmosphere of defensiveness will only hinder their work in the community and create greater friction when we follow up on our recommendations in the coming months."

The organization responded to the criticism by maintaining Operation Sickle Cell had the right to question the scope of the audit and by noting the computers contained personal medical information of clients and that removing the computers from the nonprofit's offices adversely affected its operations.

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  • colliedave Feb 19, 2008

    the state auditor should be appointed and not elected to avoid political influence in connection with state audits such as what occurred in this instance," McAllister said in the statement.

    And being appointed has no political overtones? What a complete idiot! We need more individuals looking under every stone to ensure the public's money is well spent.

  • djofraleigh Feb 19, 2008

    I don't know what I say wrong in my comments that get them kicked off, but I think I speak for the public when I say the confidence in the Assembly is not there. Every time someone is exposed, such as this time, my confidence rises.

    Can the media not dig up more of this and expose it?

    Jim Black is in jail. Good! I question too, Bev Perdue's role, what SHE got for her part in the hook and crook day-after closing, tie breaking vote on the Lottery. She had to be part of the planning, key to permitting this dark day in our Assembly. IS anyone proud of that day at the Assembly? What did Bev Perdue get out of that act of trickery on the people?

  • sweetsea Feb 18, 2008

    Most of these nonprofit yield big profits for the democrat politco at the helm and their family and cronies. They use nonprofit vehicles to haul democrat voters to the polls and have been doing this for decades. It is simply the democrat party buying votes for themselves with your tax money. They are nothing but ripoffs and the taxpayers get fleeced. Any good they do is miniscule. I wish they would close them all and send the soon to be misappropriated funds back to the state and federal treasury.

  • Wheelman Feb 18, 2008

    The Auditor's office is doing the job they were elected to do which is a far sight more than you can say for most of the officials they have had to investigate. They don't usually go looking unless there is a request or they receive info that suggests that they should. The last thing this office needs is to be appointed. That would lead to even more potential for corruption. They need to be answering to the people who elect them and pay the taxes, not some political favor. I think being an elected official on the payroll of a non-profit that receives taxpayer money is a conflict of interest and should not be allowed. It's like putting the fox in charge of the hen house.

  • Adelinthe Feb 18, 2008

    Yep! Jail her.

    This is highly inethical.

    Praying for her to get a clue, pay the non-profit back and pay a hefty fine - as well as losing her bid for election.

    God bless.

    Rev. RB

  • carlostheass Feb 18, 2008

    "I don't see how any of the activities mentioned in the article would warrant a full investigation by the State. What is a greater concern to me, is the amount of money and resources being used to investigate this case. Everyone, and I mean everyone has used something at work for personal business. The fact that the campaign activity amounts to 1% or less says to me that she is being scapegoated and harassed by someone who doesn't like her...somewhere...in the government."

    Investigating people like her is their job. The State isn't spending extra money on a witch hunt -- these people are paid to review stuff like this. People like you make it safe for corruption to exist because it's always someone else's fault, some smoke screen to hide the shady dealings. Get over it.

  • LoveOneAnotherAsChristTaught Feb 18, 2008

    115k is reasonable for the director of a non-profit.

    I don't see how any of the activities mentioned in the article would warrant a full investigation by the State. What is a greater concern to me, is the amount of money and resources being used to investigate this case. Everyone, and I mean everyone has used something at work for personal business. The fact that the campaign activity amounts to 1% or less says to me that she is being scapegoated and harassed by someone who doesn't like her...somewhere...in the government.

  • southern wisdom Feb 18, 2008

    "The audit was prompted last June by questions over spending and McAllister's $115,000 salary at Operation Sickle Cell. Investigators found nothing wrong with her salary, based on her years of experience"

    Just how many years does it take to get a $115,000 salary at taxpayer expense ?

  • ratherbnnc Feb 18, 2008

    way to go Mary! another Politician using a scam organization to benefit their own selves.. Maybe you will end up in jail beside your buddy Mr Wright.

  • bill0 Feb 18, 2008

    The computer part doesn't bother me. Who cares if she made a flier? That didn't cost taxpayers anything. The part that gets me is the $114K salary! That is taxpayer money that she helps approve for this "charity" and then it goes back into her pocket. Unfortunately, that part is apparently legal.

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