Statement from The Penrod Society President James Art
"Late in November, we learned that The Penrod Society had been robbed. Specifically, our organization and the arts community we serve are victims of a serious crime allegedly committed by one of our volunteers that resulted in the theft of approximately $380,000.
"When we learned of this crime late last month, we reported it to the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. The police are, of course, investigating. We’ve also gotten a call from an attorney representing the individual who allegedly committed this crime. Finally, we’ve had conversations with our members, our bank and our insurance company. From all those conversations, we’ve pieced together what we think happened:
"One of our members, a financial professional from a respected local financial firm, was named assistant treasurer of our organization. He was given responsibility for writing some of The Penrod Society’s checks and managing some of the Society’s money. But he abused that role and those relationships. According to his attorney, he allegedly had a gambling problem and stole our money to finance that problem.
"We’ll have to let the police determine exactly how he did that—through forged checks, unauthorized signature cards or some other method. The sad result is that one person stole money that should have and would have helped many people in this community.
"There are painful lessons in this crime. There are lessons about trust. There are lessons about non-profit governance.
"The Penrod Society is a 42-year-old, all-volunteer organization that helps promote the arts in Indianapolis. We have no paid staff members. Our main role is to organize and host an art fair on the grounds of the Indianapolis Museum of Art. The proceeds from that event are distributed each year in the form of grants to nonprofit arts organizations in our community. As a result of this crime, our ability to make grants this year at historic levels has been severely hampered.
"We do know, however, that our sponsors and members remain supportive. Because of their continued commitment and generosity (we’ve secured more than six figures in donations and sponsorships in the past few weeks), we know that we’ll have an art fair this September; we know that all our current debts will be paid; and we know we’ll be quickly back on track.
"As an organization, we feel like the family who lived in a nice neighborhood all our lives. We trusted them and they trusted us. We left our doors unlocked. We had one another’s house keys in case of emergency. Now, someone’s violated that trust and we’ll never get it back.
"We also know we’ll have to do things differently than we have for the past four decades. Toward that end, we’ve taken the following steps:
"We’ve set up a governance committee. This group will immediately review and revise our operating procedures—including multiple signature requirements and other measures that ensure this never happens again.
"We’ve set up an asset recovery committee. Those volunteers will work with all the parties involved to recover all the assets we can. What we cannot recover, our volunteers will attempt to replace through donations of their own and from others.
"Most important, we will continue to cooperate with the police investigation and whatever action they and the Marion County Prosecutor decide to take.
"At this time, that’s what we know and what we’re doing about it. There will be a Penrod Arts Fair in 2009 as scheduled on September 12. If our asset recovery efforts are successful, we will make Penrod grants, early next year, as planned.
"We’d like to answer your questions, but because this matter is still being investigated by the police, we don’t want to say anything that would compromise that. We’re also going to leave it up to the police to determine when and if it is appropriate to release the name of the individual involved."
Statement posted at Inside INdiana Business.
According to the Indianapolis Business Journal the individual accused is Brandon Benker, a junior auditor at Indianapolis-based Somerset CPAs.