The Montgomery County Prosecutor’s office is again investigating the Southern Christian Leadership Conference Dayton chapter after receiving a complaint that the group raised funds for a boy who lost a leg to cancer but did not give the money to the family.
“I hope they can get some justice here,” said Bryan Cole of Fairborn, whose 13-year old son Hunter had his leg amputated last year. “I never received one penny, one dime, from them.”
Cole said Bishop Richard Cox, the SCLC chapter president, told him he would be given some money from the SCLC’s January 2012 Martin Luther King Jr. banquet. That was confirmed by two former SCLC board members, former Chairman Keith Lander and former Vice Chairman James Brooks, who said Cox told them at a board meeting that Cole would be given money raised at the banquet.
Cox said the group did agree to raise money for Hunter, but he denied that the money was to come from the banquet held at the First Baptist Church in Dayton.
“It’s nobody’s business what happens to the money,” said Cox. “All monies that have ever been raised by SCLC have been used to run the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. So if anybody is on a witch hunt tell them to bring it on.”
Lander and Brooks resigned in the months after the banquet was held after Cox refused to provide them with an accounting of the money collected at the event, even though they were the highest-ranking members of his board. Lander estimates that more than $5,000 was raised at the dinner, which attracted about 175 participants.
“It was shady and I couldn’t be a part of that,” said Brooks. “People look to that organization for help, not to be used. I couldn’t stand by and let him use the public for personal advantage.”
Lander met with a county assistant prosecutor twice and was told “they’re looking at it trying to see if there is a paper trail around it.”
Greg Flannagan, spokesman for Prosecutor Mathias H. Heck, confirmed that the office is investigating Cole’s complaint but declined further comment.
Last year the prosecutor’s office obtained a conviction of former SCLC head, Rev. Raleigh Trammell, on 51 felony counts for misuse of public money provided to SCLC by Montgomery County. Trammell was sentenced to 18 months in prison and freed pending appeal of the conviction. The charges came after a 2010 Dayton Daily News investigation found that Trammell falsely claimed to be providing meals to needy elderly people.
Cox, who took over the local SCLC after Trammell was indicted in 2011, called Lander a “liar” and denied that any promises were made about the banquet proceeds.
“The prosecutor’s office has no reason to investigate me for anything,” Cox said. “They deal with Rev. Trammell’s mess and now they’re going to deal with somebody who is honest. Honey, I’m a man of God. They better leave me alone.”
Cox said his version of the SCLC is not a non-profit group and it was Trammell’s chapter that had its tax-exempt status pulled last May by the IRS for failure to file tax forms and account for money for three years.
Cox said people who attended the 2012 banquet would not have assumed they were donating to a non-profit organization, even though the SCLC has traditionally been such a group and annually sponsored the banquet. He said no one was told they were helping a boy who had cancer.
Cox said the SCLC held a basketball shooting fundraiser for Hunter and that about $1,200 was raised and placed in a fund at the Wright-Patt Credit Union. Citing privacy issues Wright Patt spokeswoman Tracy Fors declined comment on the account, but Cole said he recently closed it after not seeing any contributions from the SCLC.
Mitch Lambert, of Riverside, said he — not the SCLC — organized the basketball event for the Cole family. Lambert said he is not affiliated with the SCLC and the group was not involved in organizing the 2011 event that raised about $1,500 that was given to Cole.
Lambert said Cox did call him after the event was organized and told him the SCLC was going to hold a dinner to raise more money for Hunter. But Lambert said the only assistance SCLC provided for his basketball fundraiser was requesting that a local television station cover the event.
“I don’t care who got credit as long as people go together and it helps Bryan,” said Lambert, who grew up with Mr. Cole and was prompted to organize the fundraiser after he saw a newspaper story about Hunter’s cancer. “If people are doing fundraisers and not giving it to the appropriate parties, that’s not right. If they collect money and are not giving it to this kid who has cancer that’s just not right.”