IN 2015 African Americans were massacred while praying at the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, by white supremacist Dylann Roof, above.
What followed was an outpouring of outrage and grief – and around $3.3-m was sent to the church.
But much of the money never got to the families, according to an investigation of the church’s finances.
Longtime Emanuel member Liz Alston, who is a former church trustee and Emanuel’s historian, revealed she has spoken with agents from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.
And Tommy Crosby, a spokesman for the division, confirmed that an the investigation has been launched.
I do hope some accountability will come out of this investigation. Financial accountability is a big problem at Emanuel.
In the wake of the tragedy, mail arrived at the church by the bagful with condolence letters containing cash and cheques.
Despite receiving some $3.3 million in donations, church officials said only about $280,000 was earmarked for family members of the victims – because most of the donations sent to the church didn’t specify where the money should go.
The church subsequently decided to give family members and survivors more than $1 million in addition the approximately $280,000 donors specified for them, but kept more than $1.8 million for the church.Althea Latham, the church’s former secretary whose employment ended at the church two months after the massacre, said she too spoke to agents with the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division last week.
She alleges that her employment ended when she questioned the management of donations coming in and suggested the church get an external financial expert to ensure appropriate accounting.
Church officials argued, however, that her contract simply was not renewed.
Latham said in 2015 she witnessed people in the church open envelopes addressed to victims’ families and survivors of the massacre. Survivors and families also said they received mail sent to the church but addressed to them. Letters had already been opened and some marked “empty.”
Arthur Hurd, whose wife, Cynthia, was a casualty of the massacre, said he saw women in the church’s fellowship hall open envelopes addressed to victims’ families and witnessed them taking cash and cheques without making a record of the donations.
He later filed a lawsuit, but it only examined a fund Emanuel created to house the donations. It did not look into the church’s broader finances.
The church’s current pastor, the Rev Eric S C Manning, above, was unable to confirm the the investigation because the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division did not reach out to him.
I have no earthly idea what’s going on. That’s news to me.
Roof, 21 at the time of the massacre, was sentenced to death by lethal injection in January 2017. The sentence has yet to be carried out.