Statement from SPJ/LA’s President

Dear fellow SPJ/LA members,

Eight months ago, I wrote to alert you that SPJ/LA had discovered unauthorized withdrawals on the chapter’s checking account. That resulted in the immediate removal of our longtime treasurer. I am now writing to give you an update on the chapter’s finances and let you know what we have done to protect SPJ/LA’s treasury.

We have spent the past eight months obtaining every document and bit of information that we believe the authorities may need as they review this case.  After exhaustively combing through our financial records, we determined there had been numerous unauthorized withdrawals between 2009 and 2011. The research also revealed most of the money had been repaid. Working with the chapter’s attorney, the remaining funds were recovered. We cannot determine if cash deposits that should have been made into the account are accounted for.

Today, I filed a report with the Los Angeles Police Department.

I want to let you know what we have done to protect the chapter’s finances going forward.

  • As I said in January, our treasurer Sarah Baisley was immediately removed from her duties and SPJ/LA’s banking accounts when we learned of the unauthorized withdrawals.
  • The chapter hired an attorney and accountant.
  • This accountant helped the chapter officers review every single check and deposit that was made to the chapter from 2007 to 2012.
  • SPJ/LA’s old checking account was closed and a fresh account was opened.
  • Every check that is written on that account now requires two signatures.
  • The entire board at each monthly board meeting reviews checking statements.
  • We established a PayPal account, which allows the chapter to accept credit and debit cards at events. This makes it much easier to track the money coming into the account.
  • SPJ/LA no longer accepts cash at any events.

This has been a difficult time for SPJ/LA but it has not stopped us from functioning as a chapter. During this time, we’ve held a successful banquet that honored five distinguished journalists. We organized discussions on digital ethics and covering the transgender community. The chapter has spoken in support of a federal shield law, and most recently, SPJ/LA awarded scholarships to six outstanding college students.

On behalf of the board, I’d like to thank our members for their patience and understanding in dealing with this painful and challenging issue. We’re looking forward to continuing to serve our members with relevant programming and involvement in core SPJ issues – FOI, ethics and diversity.

 

Sincerely,

Alice Walton

President, Greater Los Angeles chapter

Society of Professional Journalists

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