The FBI won't say whether it's investigating the foundation's finances, but the foundation's president says she's been gathering files for federal agents.
The Haskell Foundation has asked the Federal Bureau of Investigation to find out whether its former executive director had anything to do with its financial troubles.
"We don't have any clear knowledge of criminal activity taking place, but we do have questions pertaining to the administration of some federal grants. So, yes, we have asked the FBI to investigate," foundation President Paula Postoak-Buffalomeat said Wednesday.
The foundation's executive director, Gerald T. Burd, resigned Dec. 10, shortly after learning that Haskell Indian Nations University officials were demanding an audit of the foundation's books.
Jeff Lanza, a spokesman for the regional FBI office in Kansas City, declined comment on the agency's interest in the case.
"I'm sorry, I can neither confirm nor deny the existence of any investigation," Lanza said. "That's our policy."
Postoak-Buffalomeat said she spent part of Wednesday afternoon gathering documents for FBI agents based in Topeka.
"We want to find out what happened because, right now, we don't know," she said.
The Haskell Foundation raises funds and administers grants and scholarship funds for Haskell Indian Nations University.
Several of the grants it administers are federally funded on behalf of Haskell, which is subsidized mostly through the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs. That makes possible wrongdoing an appropriate matter for federal law enforcement authorities.
Last week, the Prairie Band of Potawatomi Tribal Council loaned the foundation $47,000 after learning the foundation didn't have enough money to make payroll.
It's unclear how much money is currently in the foundation's accounts.
Burd, who moved in November 1996 to Olathe from Roswell, N.M., has a history of bad business dealings and unpaid personal loans.
A recent Journal-World investigation found:
- Burd filed personal bankruptcy in 1997, claiming debts of more that $1.3 million. He claimed $89,463 in assets.
- Several of Burd's pre-Kansas friends say he cooked up a story about a hospital insisting on advance payment for treating a rare kidney disorder that if left untreated would kill him. After Burd's friends gave or loaned him thousands of dollars, he moved to Kansas City.
Burd's friends say they have not been paid back.
- A relative has accused Burd of wrongfully diverting more than $300,000 from a trust fund he administered on behalf of his great aunt.
- Burd was president and 50 percent shareholder in a Roswell restaurant that filed bankruptcy in 1996.
- Burd, a certified public account, lost his license to practice in Kansas, New Mexico and Missouri.
Postoak-Buffalomeat said no one on the foundation's board of trustees has seen Burd since his Dec. 10 resignation.
Burd, who now lives in Lenexa, could not be reached for comment.
Ron Manka, a Kansas City-based attorney representing the Haskell Board of Regents, welcomed news that the foundation asked the FBI to investigate.
"I'm glad," Manka said. "It seems like an appropriate course of action to take."
Manka on Wednesday obtained a copy of Burd's bankruptcy file from U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Kansas City.
The file is about six inches thick.
"There's plenty here," Manka said. "I'm going through it right now."
-- Dave Ranney's phone message number is 832-7222. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.