By Laura Krantz, VTDigger.org
Attorney General Bill Sorrell’s office has filed a petition in court to remove the board of directors of an Upper Valley nonprofit, claiming it allowed the organization’s director to inflate her own salary, pad her expense reimbursements and mismanage money for years.
The AG’s office responded to a complaint from within the board of Emerge Family Advocates in White River Junction about lack of financial oversight and poor governance, according to a news release from Sorrell’s office.
Board members Thomas Trunzo and Joanna Jaspersohn last month filed suit in Windsor County Superior Court against Emerge’s executive director Raymona Russell as well as two board members and a former board member. Russell is the executive director and only full-time staff member at Emerge and has worked there since 1996, according to Sorrell’s court filing.
Federal tax documents from fiscal year 2012 show Russell made $79,209. The complaint alleges she may have paid herself more. Emerge Family Advocates received $54,915 from the state last year, including $38,515 from the Vermont Center for Crime Victim Services (CCVS), according to that center’s finance and management department.
The executive director of CCVS, Judy Rex, said Emerge’s behavior had raised red flags for several years, but short staffing and high staff turnover limited the center’s ability to monitor how grantees used its money. The center cut off Emerge’s funding in February after the organization repeatedly balked at requests for audits.
Emerge was founded in 1996 and provides supervised visitation and supervised child exchange between parents for families in the Upper Valley. The organization is funded almost entirely by state grants from Vermont and New Hampshire.