Heartland Community Health Center suspends CEO pending review of business records

The board of directors of Heartland Community Health Center voted Wednesday to suspend CEO Jon Stewart without pay while an accounting firm reviews the organization’s finances, according to the board president and a news release from the organization.

The board appointed current Chief Operating Officer Alexandra Nicholson as interim CEO, according to the news release.

James Pavisian, president of Heartland’s board of directors, said in an email to the Journal-World that national accounting firm BKD would be conducting the audit.

Additional information is to be provided at the conclusion of the review, although the news release did not specify a time frame and Pavisian said he did not have an idea of how long the review would take.

Stewart took over as CEO in October 2007, when Heartland was still called the Leo Center, following the retirement of Joe Reitz.

The 990 tax form that Heartland filed with the IRS in 2016, the latest on record at nonprofit records site guidestar.org, listed Stewart’s 2015 salary as $119,931, not including $15,556 in other compensation from Heartland or other organizations.

In February, the center merged with longtime care provider Health Care Access.

Stewart was recently selected as a member of the Sunflower Foundation Advocacy Fellowship Class of 2018, a chance to improve “advocacy skills, with a special emphasis on civil discourse and finding common ground to address issues of public concern,” according to the foundation’s website.

Heartland serves Douglas County and surrounding areas with primary medical care and other health services and assistance programs.

Stewart is the most recent nonprofit leader in Lawrence to come under a cloud.

In October 2017, the executive director of the Lawrence Community Shelter, Trey Meyer, was fired by the shelter’s board. However, in that case the board gave no reason other than a decision “to go in a different direction.” The board did note that the decision was not based on any financial impropriety.

In January 2016, the president of the Lawrence Art Guild, Amanda Monaghan, was removed by the nonprofit’s members following concerns about irregularities within the organization. Monaghan was eventually charged with felony theft for stealing from the group in April 2014, and in January 2018, she pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor theft charge instead and was ordered to pay $1,125 in restitution.

In August 2015 the executive director of Just Food, Jeremy Farmer, who was also the mayor of Lawrence, resigned his position at the nonprofit food pantry, and it was later discovered that he had embezzled thousands of dollars from Just Food. He was sentenced in August 2017 to 10 months in federal prison and was ordered to pay more than $81,000 in restitution.

— Journal-World reporter Elvyn Jones contributed to this story.


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