The charity made payments to the founder’s husband for haircuts, concerts and trips abroad, commission finds
The Charity Commission has slammed three former trustees of an education charity after the charity’s founder’s husband received money to pay for hairdressing appointments, concerts and weekend trips -end.
The regulator has released a report into its investigation into Hope House School, which runs a small independent school near Newark, Nottinghamshire, for children with autism spectrum disorder and dyspraxia.
The commission opened an investigation into the charity in October 2017 after receiving an anonymous complaint that the charity’s founder, who was also one of its three directors and acted as director of the school, received personal benefits from the charity, including designer handbags and vacations to New York and Belgium.
The founder is not named in the report and instead referred to as Administrator A, but the school was founded in 2003 by Terri Westmoreland and she was principal when Third sector reported in January 2018 that the regulator had opened an investigation into the charity.
The regulator’s latest report says the commission had obtained voluntary undertakings from three former directors of the charity not to act as directors or senior officers of a charity for eight years.
The report says the inquest identified payments to trustee A’s husband for the repayment of an alleged loan of £121,000, which he allegedly made to the charity between 2003 and 2009.
“The investigation found very little historical supporting documentation to prove that a loan was made,” the investigation report said.
He goes on to say: “Investigation revealed that payments were made to Trustee A’s husband for expenses such as hairdressing appointments, concerts and weekend trips incurred by Trustee A. “
It says the three directors at the time said they were confident these expenses could be paid directly from the charity’s bank account and offset by repayment of the alleged loan.
“The investigation identified a number of transactions recorded as direct repayments of Trustee A’s purported husband loan,” it says.
“The investigation was not satisfied with the administrators’ explanations that not all repayments of the alleged loan could be made directly and recorded as such.”
It also states: “The investigation revealed that the Trustees recorded certain expenses, including hairdresser appointments and the purchase of suitcases for Trustee A, as being funded by Trustee A’s husband.
“The directors’ record keeping was inadequate and could not clearly account for this expense, raising concerns that there was unauthorized personal benefit/misuse of charity funds.”
The investigation concluded that there had been several instances of misconduct and/or mismanagement, including that Director A may have breached internal financial controls and made payments to her husband, and that trips to New York and Belgium, made by family members of Administrator A to accompany students and the purchase of personal luxury items constitutes a personal benefit.
It also found that administrators had failed to act adequately to address concerns identified by education regulator Ofsted and had failed to take all appropriate steps to improve education practices and training. school protection, risk assessments or health and safety.
The charity said in a statement: ‘We new trustees welcome the release of the Charity Commission report, which has clarified the school’s past and the actions taken by previous trustees. This allows the new school management to move the school forward.
“We are currently investing in projects that will improve the mental health, well-being and learning experiences of our fantastic students.
“We would like to thank our staff, our parents, our local authority colleagues and the local community for their continued support, as we make Hope House School the best it can be.”