Local shrine chapter ordered to clean up its act
Story by Melydia Clewell
Eyewitness News Reporter
CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)-- New details in an Eyewitness News investigation that uncovered thousands of dollars missing from Chattanooga's Alhambra Shrine.
The national group that governs local shrine temples, Shriners International, is telling Alhambra to clean up its act.
The nation's top Shriner is concerned about what's happening with its Chattanooga chapter.
And he's ordered local shrine leaders to make changes.
Last month our investigation took us inside Alhambra Shrine to find out more about the organization's finances.
We learned shrine fundraisers in the Chattanooga area bring in a million dollars a year, most of that in cash collections.
Tax returns show less than 20% of what's raised goes to the organization's charity efforts to transport sick children to hospitals.
Most of it goes into the shrine's general fund.
An external audit released this year shows thousands of dollars donated disappeared.
"It happened in 2008, we consider it history," says Shriner David Nelson.
It's not history to the national shrine leadership.
In a recent letter to Alhambra, the president of Shriners International wrote that to say he was disturbed and disappointed by the temple's board of directors' failure to carry out their fiduciary responsibilities would be an understatement.
"We took care of it, every thing's back to the way it's supposed to be," says Stanley Wagner, past potentate.
That's what one of Alhambra's former leaders told Eyewitness News last month.
But Shrine International sent its imperial auditor to Chattanooga. He didn't find everything the way it's supposed to be.
His report noted the accounting problems continue. Among the failures, Alhambra has not maintained complete financial records, is not using proper accounting standards and is not operating with appropriate financial controls.
He also found money from the transportation fund had been spent on other things besides getting children to hospitals.
As a result, Shriners International ordered Alhambra to immediately send $34,000 to its headquarters as reimbursement for improper spending.
In addition to paying back the hospital fund, the imperial potentate also directed Alhambra to fix the book-keeping problems.
Alhambra must comply with the national directive immediately or be able to show cause as to why it can't.
We asked Alhambra leadership to comment on this story. We have not received a response.