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Audit: Charlotte nonprofit misused $70,000 in state money

State officials are investigating Charlotte nonprofit Transformation Center of the Carolinas after an audit revealed its director spent more than $70,000 in state grant money for personal use while neglecting to pay vendors.

The Transformation Center was founded in 1999 to provide occupational and job-skills training to ex-offenders, displaced workers and individuals with disabilities.

Between July 2009 and June 2012, Transformation Center director Colleen Bush spent more than $30,000 of $400,000 in state grant money on personal items such as food, clothing, fuel and dental work, according to an audit filed in May.

The investigation also shows Bush gave $26,753 of the center’s money to her church and withdrew another $14,670 in cash from the nonprofit’s bank account, according to the audit.

Meanwhile, bills totaling nearly $24,000 from vendors that provided job training to Transformation Center participants went unpaid, according to state documents.

Attempts to reach Bush on Friday were unsuccessful.

Officials with the Office of the State Auditor said they began investigating the Transformation Center after receiving a complaint that several of the center’s contractors had not been paid after providing employment training services.

During the audit, state investigators discovered that the nonprofit is not overseen by an active board of directors.

Bush told investigators she could not recall the year when the board of directors last met but speculated “it might have been in 2010,” according to the audit.

Bush also could not provide copies of board minutes or resolutions to investigators, saying they were missing.

“The lack of oversight by an active board of directors likely facilitated the ability of the executive director to pay herself rather than paying vendor invoices,” the audit states.

State officials have referred their findings to the Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office, the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office and the State Bureau of Investigation for a criminal investigation into whether Bush committed fraud or misrepresentation, obtained property by false pretenses, and engaged in deceptive trade practices.

The Department of Health and Human Services has begun a separate investigation into whether state money paid to the nonprofit before 2010 was similarly misused.

Steele: 704-358-5067
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