Bingo money that was supposed to help veterans find jobs has reportedly been misused by several AmVets posts across Ohio.
An investigation by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office found that charitable funds earmarked for AmVets Career Centers, were being used for non-charitable purposes. Among those investigated was Fostoria AmVets Post 69, which received $59,210, and Findlay AmVets Post 21, which received $147,442. Both of those posts received “D” grades for their use of the funds.
Bowling Green AmVets Post 711 does not have its own “career center,” but donated $38,639 over the last two years to other posts that were supposed to use the money to help veterans find jobs.
“Then we got word that there was some crookedness going on,” said an officer with the Bowling Green AmVets post who asked to not be named. The post now sends its charitable funds to a hospice organization.
“It upset everybody,” the post officer said Monday of the misuse of their funds.
The problem came to light when the attorney general’s office started investigating the “career centers.”
Dan Tierney, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office, said internal monitoring in his office turned up some questionable practices.
“Many of the bingo operations designated Ohio AmVets Career Centers as their charity,” Tierney said Monday.
Many of the posts set up “career centers” for veterans that were “merely facades created to give the appearance of a career center. Many career centers consisted of little more than an outdated computer in the corner of the post. At many posts veteran attendance was sparse or non-existent, though posts continued to receive charitable assets from AmVets Career Center,” according to the attorney general’s office.
Photographs on the attorney general’s website show some posts where old computers were stored in closet-like rooms with vacuums and cleaning supplies.
The misuse of “career center” funds is particularly disturbing considering the higher than average unemployment rate for veterans in Ohio.
“Obviously that was a concern,” Tierney said.
“The unemployment rate among Ohio’s veterans remains higher than the statewide average, especially among young veterans who have served since 9/11,” DeWine stated on his website. “Veterans need and deserve the assistance these AmVets organizations provide, and going forward we will make sure they get it.”
Following is a list of some of the area AmVets posts with the approximate amount of charitable funds they received to operate career centers from Jan. 1, 2006, through May 31, 2012. The posts were graded based on their career centers’ performance from Oct. 1, 2011, through Sept. 30, 2012.
• Fostoria Post 69, $59,210, graded D.
• Findlay Post 21, $147,442, graded D.
• Sandusky Post 17, $499,954, graded B.
• Tiffin Post 48, $169,967, graded F.
• Bryan Post 54, $156,340, graded F.
• Napoleon Post 1313, $22,461, graded F.
• Defiance Post 1991, $582,176, graded D.
Bill Myers, adjutant with the Fostoria post, was reached on Monday, but said he couldn’t answer any questions.
“You have to refer to the Ohio State AmVets for any statements regarding the case,” Myers said.
Under Ohio law, 25 percent of AmVets posts’ licensed gaming profits are required to go to a public charity. Fifty-nine posts contracted with AmVets Career Center to operate satellite career centers. Approximately eighty-five percent of the funds sent to the Career Center charity were then sent back to the posts where the money originated. That money added up to more than $10 million since 2006 for career training and employment services. Instead, AmVets posts used the money for non-charitable purposes, with the knowledge of AmVets Career Center board members and some AmVets Department of Ohio officials.
Last week, DeWine entered agreements with the 59 posts found to have misused funding.
In addition to revamped accounting and reporting practices and creation of written financial policies, personnel in numerous offices and boards within the AmVets organization were removed or resigned from their positions. The 59 posts have also agreed to fund the newly reformed AmVets Career Center for the next five years and turn over any career center assets they possess. The posts will no longer receive any charitable proceeds from AmVets Career Center except payment for actual services provided to the center through written agreements.