Nonprofit at center of I-Team investigation refuses cameras at p - WSMV News 4

Nonprofit at center of I-Team investigation refuses cameras at public meeting

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Board members of a nonprofit at the center of a Channel 4 I-Team investigation were not pleased to find our cameras at their public meeting on Thursday.

In February, the I-Team exposed the fact that relatives of the former chairperson of Community Action Network (CAN) were living in housing with the help of your taxpayer dollars.

After the investigation aired, the CAN chairperson, Rozann Downing, resigned the next day. The Tennessee Housing Development Agency pulled its funding until March 2017.

“It may have been fine with their rules, but it’s not fine with our rules,” said Ralph Perrey, who runs the Tennessee Housing Development Agency.

In 2015, the THDA grant made up 13 percent of the group’s contributions. Two years earlier, that grant accounted for 64 percent.

Neither Downing nor the other board members ever explained what happened.

When the I-Team showed up seeking an explanation, members of the board made it clear that cameras were not welcome.

“No cameras, out!” said board member Marian Paschall. “No cameras.”

However, Paschall did acknowledge that Thursday’s meeting was public.

“I’m trying to understand why there’s a rule against cameras,” reporter Alanna Autler asked.

"This is a public meeting for us to run Community Action Network,” Paschall said. “This is not a public meeting for you to put us on a display out there, which you so like to do. The camera goes ma'am, that's it."

CAN serves six rural counties, providing affordable housing to people who are often low-income or disabled.

Thursday’s public meeting was the first since the I-Team uncovered conflicts of interest within the housing nonprofit. CAN received more than $1 million in taxpayer money, according to its most recent tax filings in 2014.

The I-Team notified the nonprofit it planned on attending. But no one told us cameras were banned until we arrived.

“We’re not a spectator here, we’re not on display,” Paschall said. “We’re having a board meeting-- and all of you are welcome to come and sit.”

So the I-Team did.

The meeting lasted less than 10 minutes, and the board discussed little to no new business. Members did provide the I-Team with a copy of new procedures, including a revamped “conflict of interest” policy.

Dated March 21, 2016, the new rules outline what the former policy had never addressed: the definition of a relative. Under this policy, CAN must refer relatives to other “resource facilities” for assistance.

The policy also addresses employees, former employees and former board members of the Community Action Network.

But after the meeting, members refused to answer why they changed the policies.

“Is there something that you can tell us just about what happened here and how long you knew what was going on?" asked Autler.

“Ma’am, if you don’t put that TV camera away,” said Paschall, who then shoved the camera.

“Leave now,” said Janice Patterson, the new chairperson. “Or I’ll call the law.”

Patterson did say off-camera that when reviewing applicants, the board now delves “deep in to the gene pool.”

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