Archive for Sunday, October 31, 2004

Indian Center loses nonprofit status but will remain open

October 31, 2004


— The Mid-America All-Indian Center will stay open despite a host of problems that include having its nonprofit status revoked after failing to file the proper paperwork.

"We are here for our staff members and programs and for the Native American people," said Sherol Williams, director of the Workforce Investment Act program at the center. "We want to make sure the Indian Center stays open for current and future generations."

The Indian Center opened about 24 years ago and is part of the city's museum district along the banks of the Arkansas river. It provides social services and referrals for members of the American Indian community and provides programming for the entire city.

The center's interim director, who also serves as fiscal officer, resigned earlier this month. Last week, the board of directors launched an investigation into financial problems, questioning why the center's bills were not being paid.

The board became concerned about financial problems at the center in September after $5,000 reportedly was stolen from money raised at a powwow, according to Newman Washington, acting board chairman.

Its problems are becoming public now because of complaints from Concerned Citizens for the Indian Center, a group of community members with an interest in American Indian culture.

After the board refused to meet with group members, the group said it contacted a lawyer seeking more information about the center's finances and operations.

"We have been investigating this for two years," said Sue Seal, a group member. "It's at its worst now."

Cecilia White, the former interim director and fiscal officer, filed a police report Sept. 24 saying the center had lost an estimated $5,000 in cash and an unknown amount of computer equipment.

An artist who makes the miniature replicas of the "Keeper of the Plains" statues sold at the museum gift shop won a $1,464 judgment against the center in June. In court documents, he said he had not been paid for his work for three years.

The center lost its nonprofit status Dec. 15, 2003, for not filing its 2002 and 2003 annual reports.

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