Conference staff, police investigate possible misappropriation of funds

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Conference staff, police investigate possible misappropriation of funds

March 28, 2005    News media contact:  Tita Parham*    
407-897-1184     Orlando  {0269}

An e-Review Feature
By Tita Parham

LAKELAND — The Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church has begun an investigation into the possible misappropriation of funds from the conference risk management program.

Randy Casey-Rutland, Florida Conference treasurer and director of the conference's financial services office, said questionable expenses related to the conference risk management program were discovered early during the week of March 14 while he and other staff were gathering data for the conference's annual financial audit.

"As soon as we suspected there was a possibility conference funds had been misappropriated, we immediately launched an investigation," Casey-Rutland said. "We have secured legal assistance and contacted law enforcement officials and will cooperate fully with them in their investigation of this matter."

Casey-Rutland said the suspected misuse spans several years and the amount appears to be substantial, but the full extent will not be known until the investigation is complete.

The conference filed a civil lawsuit March 24 naming Mrs. Virginia L. Albritton as the individual alleged to be responsible for the misappropriation of the funds. Albritton was an employee in the conference risk management office, but resigned from her position last December.

The suit was filed in order to conduct a thorough investigation and protect assets that may have been diverted from conference use into personal accounts, according to Casey-Rutland.

"While the sum of money involved may be significant, the financial integrity and viability of the risk management program is not at risk," Casey-Rutland said. "If the investigation confirms funds were stolen, it is likely that much of the financial loss would be covered by insurance."

The ability of the conference to pay claims has not been impacted or impaired at any time as a result of any misuse of funds, according to Casey-Rutland. 

"We are committed to being good stewards of the funds entrusted to the Florida Conference and ensuring they are used for their intended purpose," Casey-Rutland said. "We take this situation very seriously and are reviewing our financial policies and procedures to ensure they're as effective as possible. We will make any necessary revisions to those policies to ensure the highest level of financial integrity."

The Florida Conference Committee on Finance & Administration (CF&A) and Risk Management Committee met March 23 to discuss the standards and accounting processes currently in place. The CF&A executive committee will study those processes further and make any necessary changes to ensure no future misuse of funds occurs.

The risk management program is part of the conference's financial services department and makes decisions for and oversees all of the property, liability and Workers' Compensation matters related to Florida Conference churches. The risk manager reports to Casey-Rutland.

The program is run by a committee of laity and clergy who are familiar with large commercial insurance programs and is funded by premiums received from insured groups within the Florida Conference, which includes the conference offices in Lakeland, district offices, local churches and their affiliates, the conference camps, and the United Methodist Children's Home.


This article relates to Conference Financial Services.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.

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