LA state accuses COGIC Pastor of misusing $250k Katrina assistance money
New Orleans – An audit conducted by the state of Louisana says Supt John Pierre of Living Witness Church of God in Christ misused nearly a quarter of a million dollars given to him to help citizens in the wake of the Hurricane Katrina. The state contends that Pierre converted to personal use nearly $74,000 in rebuilding grants, without reporting the income to the Internal Revenue Service or state tax officials. In addition, he “misspent” another $160,000.
According to the report published in the New Orleans Times-Picayune , Pierre recieved the money in 2008 but grossly mismanaged, misspent and could not account for thousands of dollars.
In addition, the State Inspector General’s audit also said that Elder John Pierre of Living Witness Church of God in Christ converted to personal use nearly $74,000 in rebuilding grants, without reporting the income to the Internal Revenue Service or state tax officials.
The report recommended that the state begin efforts to recapture the money and consider whether to open a criminal prosecution.
The state’s full report quotes Pierre as acknowledging that some funds were misspent. But in a formal reply attached to the report over the signature of Robert Jenkins, his lawyer, Pierre flatly denies “all wrongdoing and allegations.”
“While I’m anxious to tell my side of the story, I’ve been advised by my counselor not to make any statements,” Pierre said Wednesday.
The inspector general’s report charged that in 2008 the church received $250,000 from the Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation, a private non-profit established to distribute Katrina relief donations.
The money was intended to convert a Central City building at 1518 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. into low-income housing for recovering addicts.
But the audit found the building still uninhabitable and said $135,000 was diverted to the church’s “daily operating expenses.”
Another $25,000 grant from the Department of Health and Hospitals was supposed to add 10 beds to a building at 1835 Terpsichore St. the church uses to house recovering addicts.
The report says Pierre used all the money on architectural services, and the building remains unusable.
The inspector general said much of the money was comingled. Its examination of church bank accounts found that in 2008 and 2009 Pierre issued himself 11 checks totalling $32,810, “including a $20,000 check … classified as an anniversary gift.”
He also paid himself $41,000 in regular housing allowances, the report said.
The church allegedly also paid two church members a total of nearly $10,000 “as honorariums for services performed.”
The church reported none of those payments on W-2 forms sent to federal or state tax authorities, the report said.
It appears Pierre had big dreams when he learned he was getting the money. His website says they “fully believe that this year marks a new beginning for all God’s people. Following the devastating effects of hurricane katrina with the blessings of our Lord, Living Witness Ministries is embarking upon a major capital rebuilding and expansions project. We have expanded our ministry’s mission to include housing development to provide decent and affordable housing for those families of the Diaspora who have a desire to return home to New Orleans.”
Unfortunately, the investigation found that Pierre, once he got his hands on the money, forgot all about the grand plans to revitalize the neighborhood and helping victims of the storm. Not only did he prove to be a extremely poor administrator but he has wasted hard earned tax payer money intended to do good. As a “man of God” Pierre’s actions are completely shameful.