Michael C. Blackwell, longtime president and CEO of the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina, is retiring from his post effective immediately following an independent financial review that discovered multiple instances of misuse of the organization’s funds.
An announcement from BCHNC on Tuesday (Sept. 19) said its board of trustees reached an agreement with Blackwell earlier in the day for Blackwell to retire effective immediately. Blackwell has been on a “voluntary leave of absence” since May 26.
“Both parties have agreed that moving in the direction of new leadership is in the best interest of the organization and its mission of ‘sharing hope…changing lives,’” BCHNC said.
“While the outcome of this review was disappointing, the action taken by the trustees clearly prioritizes that the integrity of the BCH mission and, most importantly, our commitment to the children and families we serve comes first,” Gayla Freeman, chair of the BCH executive committee, noted. “It is our hope that this is the first step in rebuilding trust with our supporters, partners and NC Baptists who have faithfully stood with us to minister to the needs of the most vulnerable while showing them God’s unconditional love.”
Freeman added that the misuse of funds was “not systemic.”
“We have concluded from the review that the misuse of funds was isolated to the former President/CEO and was not systemic,” Freeman said.
The independent financial review involved a forensic accountant’s assessment of specific organizational expenditures by Blackwell and “the findings substantiated multiple instances of misuse directly conflicting with both BCH policies and Blackwell’s fiduciary duties,” BCHNC said.
Blackwell has agreed to reimburse BCHNC in full for the funds that were identified. Additionally, he will pay the appropriate amount of applicable taxes. Blackwell’s final compensation will only consist of that which is required by law, and BCHNC policy regarding accrued vacation and sick time, the statement said.
The review determined that BCHNC’s bylaws, as currently written, give the president/CEO position too wide a margin of financial authority.
In an email statement sent to some Baptist State Convention of North Carolina leaders as well as the Biblical Recorder after BCHNC’s announcement was made public, Blackwell said he “had never deliberately done anything to bring harm to this ministry that is so deeply personal to me.”
Blackwell said he shared that sentiment with members of the BCHNC board of trustees when he was invited to meet with them during a special called meeting that was held in closed session on Sept. 13.
In his statement, Blackwell acknowledged the existence of a “special Discretionary Fund” and said he “never stepped outside the original, established parameters and purpose of the Fund.”
Blackwell added that at some point he “did determine that some charges were, indeed, personal. I made note of those and reimbursed BCHNC for those charges.”
He added: “There was no intentional misuse of funds.”
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