Advertisement

Archive for Wednesday, December 29, 1999

S EX-DIRECTOR NO STRANGER TO TROUBLE

December 29, 1999

Advertisement

A former Haskell Foundation official has a track record of financial woes and business failure.

A lot of people who know Gerry Burd are having a hard time figuring out how he found work at the Haskell Foundation, first as its comptroller, then as executive director.

Their opinions of the man are anything but kind.

"He's a professional liar," said Tommy Garrett, who lives in Roswell, N.M., where Burd was a certified public accountant from 1991 to 1996. "(He) ought to be electrocuted."

Burd has a history of bad business dealings and unpaid personal loans solicited with stories his jilted lenders say were lies.

He resigned his position at Haskell Foundation on Dec. 10, shortly after receiving a letter from Haskell Indian Nations University that threatened to cut the university's ties to the foundation and directed the foundation to explain why its checks were bouncing.

The Haskell Foundation now is attempting to sort out money problems similar to others left in Burd's trail.

"Gerry Burd has no business being in a job like that," Garrett said of the man's recent position at Haskell.

Charitable friends

Garrett said he loaned Burd $1,000 "in late 1995 or early 1996" after Burd told friends he had been diagnosed with a rare kidney disorder that the hospital refused to treat without payment in advance.

Garrett's son, Mike, had already given Burd more than $10,000. Burd and the younger Garrett were deacons at West Country Club Church of Christ, Roswell.

The younger Garrett has made claim against Burd in federal bankruptcy court. Mike Garrett's father has sent a letter to federal bankruptcy Judge John Flannagan with comments about Burd only slightly less scathing than the ones he shared with the Journal-World.

The Garretts apparently got off easy. An accountant in Denver loaned Burd $15,000 and raised $20,000 more from friends.

"He said if he didn't get this unique form of treatment " whatever it was " he was going to die, leaving behind a wife and baby," said the accountant, asking that his name not be used.

"This is an embarrassment to me," the accountant said. "He duped me, just like he duped a lot of people. It was the best con job I've ever had pulled on me. I'm not overly skeptical, but I'm not stupid either " but " well " he got me. Basically, he's dishonest."

Bankruptcy file findings

Burd, his wife and two children moved to Olathe in November 1996. A year later, Burd filed personal bankruptcy.

Burd's bankruptcy file reveals:

  • His liabilities exceeded $1.3 million. He claimed $89,463 in assets.
  • The New Mexico Accountancy Board canceled Burd's CPA certificate June 30, 1997. He voluntarily surrendered his Kansas license on Aug. 5, 1997. He lost his Missouri license in 1998.
  • According to the bankruptcy file, he was president and 50 percent shareholder of at least one Roswell restaurant, "The Mason Jar," that filed bankruptcy in 1996. Among the restaurant's debts is more than $20,000 in unpaid employees' state and federal payroll taxes.
  • He is accused by a relative of wrongfully diverting more than $300,000 from a trust fund he administered on behalf of his great aunt, Elaine Paschall, who died in 1993.

The bankruptcy file includes a note signed by Burd, promising to pay back $212,500 to Paschall's heirs by Oct. 1, 2001.

"This whole thing is totally disgusting," said Wilma Gruenberg, whose late husband, Walter, was Paschall's brother and a beneficiary of the trust.

"I can't believe Gerry Burd would step out in public and have anything to do with handling other people's money," Gruenberg said. "I feel sorry for you people up there (in Kansas)."

Mike Garrett said he and Burd formed an Overland Park company, Burd & Garrett, in 1997 that was supposed to help doctors' offices adjust their fees to fit the rates paid by health insurance companies.

"It never got off the ground," said Garrett, who stayed in New Mexico while Burd ran the startup business. Garrett is a CPA.

"We (Garrett and other investors) found out real quick that money we'd put into this deal just, all of a sudden, wasn't there," Garrett said. "I mean " our checks were bouncing from Day One."

No response from Burd

Burd, who now lives in an apartment in Lenexa, has not responded to several messages left on his personal answering machine.

He and his wife, Gwyn, divorced in June 1997.

Domestic court records show that Burd's September child-support payment, which is deducted from his Haskell Foundation paycheck, was returned due to insufficient funds.

Paula Postoak-Buffalomeat, president of the Haskell Foundation's board of trustees, said she and other board members were unaware of Burd's past.

"I had no knowledge of any of this," she said. "And I'm sure no one else did either or he wouldn't have been working there. This is very upsetting."

She added: "All of us on the board are there out of a love for Haskell. Now, we will try to overcome this."

Postoak-Buffalomeat declined comment on the foundation's financial problems. "I'd rather not get into that," she said.

But in a September 1998 interview with the Journal-World, Burd said the foundation had about $200,000 in its endowment account.

It's unclear how much money is currently in the foundation's accounts.

The Haskell Board of Regents' Dec. 9 letter to the foundation cited reports of unpaid bills, bounced scholarship checks and failure to complete a 1998 audit.

On Oct. 15, the Internal Revenue Service filed a lien against the foundation, claiming it owed $127,996 in unpaid Social Security and federal income taxes for the last three months of 1998 and the first three months of 1999.

Attorney to investigate

"I've not heard of these allegations before," said Ron Manka, an attorney representing the Haskell regents. "I'll be looking at the (bankruptcy) file soon, probably tomorrow."

The foundation vacated its offices in Free State Business Center, 1201 Wakarusa Drive, last week, returning to its former headquarters on the Haskell campus.

A $47,000 loan from the Prairie Band of Potawatomi Tribal Council on Dec. 21 allowed the foundation to make its payroll last week.

Mamie Rupnicki, the tribal council's chairwoman and president of Haskell regents, could not be reached for comment.

-- Dave Ranney's phone message number is 832-7222. His e-mail is dranney@ljworld.com.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.