The Board of Trustees of Unity Worldwide Ministries (UWM) attempts to maintain an “open door” philosophy with our member ministers, ministries, and others interested in the Unity movement regarding governance and events involving our organization.
Among other things, this open door philosophy presents itself with bi-weekly issues of The Path, Special Communications, Connection Space calls or dialogue calls, or Updates from the UWM Board. When we underwent a profound and sudden change in the top leadership of UWM administration in August 2019, then-Chair Rev. Toni Fish regularly provided detailed reports from the Board. I have attempted to maintain that practice with periodic messages relating to major Board of Trustees actions.
These communications have attempted to be transparent, forthright, and as thorough as we were advised was legally appropriate. Sometimes we were more successful than others in anticipating and answering questions that we thought would be asked. My most recent report was one of those instances that did not anticipate all the questions that arose, so this message is intended to supplement that report.
As required under terms of our insurance coverage, a report needed to be filed with the Jackson County (Missouri) Sheriff's Department. That report was filed by our Interim CEO. The report did not allege criminal activity but noted that there were several transactions which warranted further explanation and documentation and were therefore questionable or suspicious.
Change in Leadership Triggers Audit
When there is sudden or unexpected change in the financial leadership of an organization, such as UWM experienced last August, it is appropriate and customary to closely examine the organization’s financial records. As reported last month, UWM, working with our insurance company Church Mutual, obtained a forensic audit which examined our financial transactions and the documentation supporting those transactions from 2017 thru August 2019.
With the cooperation of our staff, over the course of more than six months, Balanced Edge, a forensic auditing firm engaged by Church Mutual, closely looked into our financial records. Their work helped bring clarity and explain some of those transactions referenced above. But their work also identified transactions for which no explanation was available within the records of our accounting system.
As noted last month, explanations related to those transactions were requested from our former CFO, but none were received. As a result of a lack of explanation or documentation for these transactions, Balanced Edge recommended, and Church Mutual agreed, to send a check in the amount of $35,491.86 to Unity Worldwide Ministries as a result of the identified financial irregularities under our errors and omissions coverage. With the payment of that claim, the forensic audit ended.
As previously reported, in August 2019 we contracted with an outside accounting firm to assume administration of our finance department. The firm e2E has helped us develop several new policies which will help ensure the transparent and well-documented receipt and expenditure of all funds.
We have new check writing practices that require two actual, in-person signatures for all expenditures over a designated amount. Signature stamps have been destroyed. If there are not two people able to physically sign a check, email approval must be given by either the Chair or the Treasurer of the Board. The actual check is generated, not by UWM personnel, but by our contracted firm, e2E. Weekly reports of checks to be issued are sent to Patricia Bass, Interim CEO (and now Shad Groverland, Executive Director); Connie Savage, Director of Operations for UWM; Tom Daniels, our onsite e2E Financial Officer; Valerie Mansfield, Board Treasurer; and myself as Chair. These reports identify all checks, regardless of the amount, including the payee and purpose of the check, for approval and information purposes, as an additional check and balance on expenditures.
Audit Review Team
With the approval of the Board, an Audit Review team was created by then-Treasurer Richard Bunch to research recognized audit firms for our upcoming financial statement audits for 2019 and 2020. It is our intent that these audit reports will be presented to the membership at the Unity People’s Convention in June 2021.
All of this brings with it an understandable question of how did this happen? We as a Board have been discussing this question for over 12 months now. Although we thought operations and finances were being reviewed, obviously we missed things. While asking for full financial statement audit reports, we were given official-looking opinion letters and supporting financial statements. We placed an inordinate amount of trust in a system and a family structure organization and in individuals whom we thought we knew. But we did not adequately verify. And for that, we recognize and acknowledge our role in this series of events.
As a means of further communication and discussion relating to this matter, we have scheduled a Connection Space discussion; open to all, on Thursday, October 22, 2020, 3:30 p.m. (CT). During that call, we will attempt to answer what we can and also respect and honor the confidentiality and employee/employer requirements with questions we can’t answer.
In anticipation of some questions, we cannot share the forensic report itself, and we will be limited in our ability to confirm or deny any continuing or future investigations either by UWM or by civil authorities. To the extent appropriate, we will continue to report to you on additional procedures we put into place to prevent this from happening again.
In closing, I would like to thank you for your support for the Board during these changing times. I also thank you for your questions, concerns, and comments. They are a further manifestation of the love and support for the Unity movement and a desire by all of us for a strong, vibrant, and authentic organization.