[Nfbmo] Springfield Association for the Blind tries to recover $7, 500

Gary Horchem ghorchem at gary-springfield-mo.net
Wed Jun 10 15:45:56 UTC 2009

Good morning here's an update on the Springfield Association for the Blind
theft case form this morning's Springfield News Leader:


Springfield Association for the Blind tries to recover $7,500


In 2007, the Springfield Association for the Blind was forced to shut its
doors, the victim of poor oversight, sloppy bookkeeping and a lack of funds.

Now, an organization that sprang up in the group's place might have fallen
victim to a financial foible of a different sort.

The New Springfield Association for the Blind is trying to recover $7,500
owed by the former group's director but apparently given to the wrong

"We're struggling. We're trying to provide services to our members," said
Brigitte Koenig, president of the new association. "We could use the money."

Koenig and the group first learned they stood to gain the $7,500 last month,
when news reports indicated Mickey Martin had cut a check to the association
as part of a deal with prosecutors.

Martin, the former director of the original association for the blind, was
charged last year with embezzling tens of thousands of dollars from the
group, in effect causing its closure.

Instead, prosecutors learned Martin was actually paying down the
organization's debts from his own pocket. The apparent embezzlement was the
result of Martin reimbursing himself with association checks.

Greene County prosecutors agreed to defer prosecution. In exchange, Martin
consented to donate $7,500 to the New Springfield Association for the Blind
and stay out of trouble for two years.

He made the donation, but prosecutors apparently didn't have a valid contact
with the new organization. Assistant Prosecutor Mike Huddleston said the
office gave the check to Jerry Young, the former board president of the
original association.

"He was our contact when the case was submitted," Huddleston said. "I just
know that it was turned over to him."

Now, Koenig and members of the new association are trying to get in touch
with Young about the money. Young has not answered member calls, nor more
than a dozen calls made by a reporter.

Attorney Aaron Lyons, working pro bono, recently sent a letter to Young
demanding restitution, Koenig said.

She acknowledges $7,500 isn't so much money, but said it would be a boon to
her fledgling organization, which is struggling to find its feet.

The group currently has 28 paying members, "which is kind of low," Koenig
said. "A lot of people did not care to sign up again."

Unable to access the former association's building -- which housed resources
for blind people such as Braille writers and reading machines -- the group
meets monthly at the South Side Senior Center, 2215 S. Fremont Ave.

Like the old group, the New Springfield Association for the Blind sponsors
activities and social opportunities for Springfield's visually impaired.

If Young doesn't respond to its requests, the group might reach an impasse,
Koenig said.

The disputed amount is too much to sue for in small claims court but might
not be worth a full-blown lawsuit.

"A lawsuit for $7,500 is really not a good option," Koenig said.

The prosecutor's office is aware of the matter but is planning no action,
Huddleston said.

"I don't think this office has any further interest," he said.

So the New Springfield Association for the Blind waits.



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