The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

July 13, 2014

Police probe into local Habitat for Humanity finances

Alleged financial irregularities

— Athens Police are investigating a possible theft of funds by a former employee of Habitat for Humanity of Athens-Limestone County.

Chief Floyd Johnson told The News Courier this week his department is probing the theft of an undisclosed amount of money from the local nonprofit group, which uses mainly local donations and some grants to build homes for low-income residents.

Johnson declined to name the suspect or to disclose the amount of the theft, saying investigators are still looking at records. No one has been charged with a crime, he said.

Habitat has ordered a forensic audit of its books and any other transactions related to the organization.

This is the second time this week police have disclosed they are investigating thefts by former employees. The first involved the Athens-Limestone Public Library.

Discovery

Amanda Garlen, who took over as executive director in April, discovered the financial irregularities at Habitat.

“I took over the executive director position in April and discovered there was a misappropriation of funds by a former employee, and I turned it over to the city investigators and there is an ongoing investigation,” Garlen said.

The organization has a small staff that includes Garlen and bookkeeper Lydia Presnell. When asked if Presnell was bookkeeper when the alleged theft occurred, Garlen said Presnell was the bookkeeper but added that the theft “was done without her (Presnell’s) knowledge” and that she was not a suspect.

Whether the theft investigation will lead to criminal charges is uncertain. Limestone County District Attorney Brian Jones said his office is working with police on the case but he declined to comment further.

Donations

Meanwhile, Habitat officials are worried the investigation itself could hamper donations, upon which Habitat relies.

To that end, Garlen said Habitat is working to make changes that would prevent misappropriations.

“Yes, we are absolutely working closely with our staff and the board to implement the policies and discover any changes needed in our expenditure policy,” she said.

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