Urban League declines money Group says donations from United Way have strings attached

Accounting questioned

March 18, 1998|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

After years of feuding, the Baltimore Urban League has stopped asking for money from the United Way of Central Maryland, saying it comes with too many strings attached.

The Urban League's 27-member board has scheduled an emergency meeting for this morning to discuss the loss of $163,000 in United Way contributions.

Urban League director Roger L. Lyons also has told the United Way that he will not request funds for next year, league officials said yesterday.

Larry E. Walton, president of United Way, said his agency has been battling with the Urban League over the league's accounting practices for four years.

United Way wants the league to implement program-based funding, which would allow the charity to track funds spent on particular programs, Walton said.

"We have bent over backwards and done everything possible to help the Urban League accomplish this and resolve this dispute," Walton said.

But league officials say their $3.5 million budget is already audited by federal and city agencies that contribute funds.

"The level of oversight the United Way wanted to impose was just unreasonable," said Linda S. Thompson, chairwoman of the Baltimore Urban League.

United Way stopped making its monthly payments to the league Oct. 15, when volunteers said they could not be sure United Way money was being spent on programs for which it was earmarked, Walton said.

Stopping payments to any of the 135 agencies that receive United Way funds happens about once or twice a year, Walton said.

"We have an obligation to our donors to make sure that their money is spent the way it's supposed to be spent," Walton said. "We couldn't ensure that with the Urban League's accounting practices."

United Way met with league officials last week and sent a letter proposing an oversight committee made up of three members from United Way and three from the league to supervise the league's spending, Walton said.

Walton said the oversight panel was proposed as a way to help the Urban League make its accounting practices consistent with other agencies that receive funds.

But at a meeting Monday set up for his annual budget presentation, Lyons told United Way officials that he will not seek funds for next year, Thompson said.

Lyons declined to comment on the dispute, but said the league employs 62 people and that United Way money pays for five to seven workers. He declined to say if anyone will be laid off or if any programs will be cut.

Walton said that the problem has nothing to do with new funding allocation methods that the United Way is implementing this year. He said he hopes a compromise can be reached.

"We at the United Way do not want to see a disaffiliation with the Urban League. We think the Urban League and the United Way should work together to benefit the community," he said.

Pub Date: 3/18/98

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