Cars, Houses, Expenses All Subject To Scrutiny
By David Terry
July 21, 2009 / guelphnow.ca
The strong scent of scandal began to emerge yesterday from the Cambridge-based Imagine adoption agency as an examination of the organization’s finances proceeded.
Questions regarding the financial probity of Imagine’s operations continue to be raised . Three vehicles leased to the agency including a Nissan Pathfinder and a Lexus were seized yesterday. It is presumed that these were the vehicles of the three agency principals Susan Hayhow Executive Director, Andrew Morrow Director of Development and Jim Cianca Director of Operations. A total of $80,000 in lease payments was owed on these vehicles.
Does this bring into question their judgment regarding the image this creates to those who support its charitable work?
These same three directors had raised the eyebrows of the agency's board when they noticed unusually high expenses being charged to the agency.
Contrary to appearances the address on King Street in Preston was not the only property for which the agency was paying. A further three Cambridge properties were rented by the agency at a cost of $13,000 monthly. What were these properties used for, how long had they been rented and why did directors not question them?
The Global Reach Children’s Fund, a charity carrying out significant charitable work in Ethiopia and Ghana, on its web site describes Imagine as a “partner”. Other partners include Mirvish Productions, Webkinz Foundation and Epson Canada. GRCF is also registered at the same Cambridge address and its principles are the same for the Imagine adoption agency. Among its current activities in Ethiopia, is the building of the Faith Village Foster Care home due for completion in September and the Faith Village Primary School due in August 2010.
Imagine is a not for profit agency and GRCF is a federally incorporated business. Although the bankruptcy trustee, BDO Dunwoody, is not responsible for GRCF they are reviewing their records because it appears funds may have been transferred between the organisations.
Given the apparently sound financial foundation of GRCF how could a partner agency operating in the same country on a critical component of its activities be allowed to fall into insolvency?
The operation of Imagine had two principal sources of funding – charitable donations – among them funds raised by the rock group Rock On at the New Year’s Eve celebrations in Times Square, New York – and fees charged to adoptive parents. Some 450 couples now left stranded, pay fees between $8,000 and $20,000. At the low end that’s an astonishing $3.6m.
How could an agency relicensed by the province as recently as October, suffer such a precipitous fall from financial stabilty? Certainly provincial controls are both strict and exhaustive although they do not include, in the case of private agencies, a financial audit.
Finally the three principals remain out of the country, leaving the trustee to carry out their probe without input from this important group.
There well may be nothing of a questionable nature here and Imagine may simply be another insolvent victim of our torrid economic times. On the other hand, those adoptive parents and their erstwhile children who are undergoing such distress, deserve to know that their emotional and financial investment in Imagine was well placed.