The Seattle City Attorney’s Office is reviewing possible charges related to the use of an unlicensed accountant by a homeless-services nonprofit that recently shut down its shelters.
The Seattle City Attorney’s Office is reviewing possible criminal or civil charges related to a local homeless-services nonprofit using an unlicensed accountant.
The investigation launched earlier this month comes as the nonprofit, Seattle Housing and Resource Effort (SHARE) is engaged in an open struggle with city and county officials over funding. SHARE’s leaders closed their many indoor shelters indefinitely in March, shutting down access to hundreds of beds to bring attention, they said, to the organization’s dire financial straits and need for additional public support.
Dozens of people who had been staying in the shelters hosted mostly by churches are now camped out in the plaza of the King County Administration Building downtown and nearby on an open slope next to the Goat Hill Pea Patch.
Last funded by the county in 2013, SHARE has used similar tactics to win funding before.
The City Attorney’s Office is looking into SHARE’s use of Bellevue-based Steven A. Isaacson to prepare financial statements in recent years. The Seattle Human Services Department, which has used SHARE as a shelter contractor for years, requires the nonprofit to submit the statements regularly for officials to review and requires the statements to be prepared by an independent Certified Public Accountant (CPA).
But Isaacson’s CPA license lapsed in 1984, according to the Washington State Board of Accountancy. That was first reported on May 11 at The Blog Quixotic, a website run by Seattle resident David Preston, who writes regularly about SHARE.
The Seattle Times asked the Human Services Department about the matter on May 16. On May 18, the department referred the matter to the City Attorney’s Office.
Kimberly Mills, spokeswoman for the office, said charges could potentially be filed against SHARE, Isaacson or both. “This is being taken very seriously,” Mills said.
The Board of Accountancy has issued a cease-and-desist order to Isaacson and is investigating his case, executive director Charles Satterlund said. The board enforces state laws governing CPAs, including the requirement that they hold active licenses.
Efforts to speak with Isaacson this week were unsuccessful. A person who answered a phone call to a number associated with Isaacson hung up on a reporter.
Phone calls to two SHARE board members weren’t returned Tuesday. The nonprofit describes itself as self-run — led by people experiencing homelessness, and it manages several tent encampments in the Seattle area in addition to its shelters.
A message posted to the organization’s website on May 18 and attributed to “The Men and Women of SHARE” says they were surprised to learn about Isaacson’s status.
“We were shocked,” SHARE’s website message says. “No one had ever suggested this individual might be capable of fraudulently misrepresenting himself.”
The message says SHARE has ended its agreements for work with Isaacson, requested he return property to the nonprofit and informed him the organization will be seeking compensation from him for damages caused. It says SHARE has agreed to hire a licensed CPA to handle future work and to investigate Isaacson’s past work.
Ted Hunter, a lawyer for SHARE, said the organization rightly assumed Isaacson’s license was current. He called SHARE “a victim here, as any consumer would be.”
The Human Services Department’s allocation for SHARE’s shelter program this year is nearly $330,000, all of that from the city’s general fund.
Isaacson prepared annual financial statements for SHARE from 2008 through 2011 and biennial statements thereafter, records from the city and the nonprofit show.
A fiscal review of SHARE by the Human Services Department last year rated the organization’s financial systems as satisfactory and took no corrective actions.
“The fiscal responsibility we’re accountable for is very important to us,” said Jason Johnson, deputy director with the department. “We consider this an issue of concern.”
In 2012, SHARE staged protests and temporarily closed its shelters after city and county officials declined to provide the nonprofit with additional discounted bus tickets. SHARE got the bus tickets and reopened its shelters about two weeks later.