James Beard Foundation Restructures; George P. Sape Elected Chairman, Diane D. Kern and Robert W. Jones Elected Vice Chairs

Longtime President Leonard Pickell resigns before Board of Trustees meeting;

Trustees receive details of internal investigation of financial and

operational issues, pledge modernization and accountability for one of the

nation's best-known culinary arts organizations

Sep 09, 2004, 01:00 ET from James Beard Foundation

    NEW YORK, Sept. 9 /PRNewswire/ -- In a significant restructuring, the
 Board of Trustees of The James Beard Foundation met today and announced major
 governance changes. The changes come as Trustees were briefed on the results
 of an internal investigation of financial and administrative issues facing the
     The new positions of Chairman and two (2) Vice Chairs of the Board of
 Trustees were created. Trustee George P. Sape, a New York attorney, was
 elected Chairman and will oversee financial and operational strategy. Longtime
 Trustee Diane D. Kern-who is also Chairman of the House Preservation Fund-was
 elected First Vice Chairman; Robert W. Jones, Vice Chairman-Investment Banking
 and Managing Director at Morgan Stanley, was elected Second Vice Chairman.
 Ms. Kern will also assume the role of acting Executive Director, responsible
 for the day-to-day management of the foundation. The Board expects to name a
 fulltime executive director in the coming months. Trustee Anne Byrd was
 elected Treasurer, and founding Trustee Kathleen Perry was elected Secretary.
     The Board also accepted the resignation of President and Trustee Leonard
 Pickell, who notified the Board of his intention to resign on Tuesday
 afternoon of this week.  Pickell had been President of the Foundation since
     The Board also assigned to Mr. Jones the role of Chairman of the Finance
 Committee, and appointed Trustee Marcie McNelis as Chairman of the Governance
     "These are first steps toward resolving the financial and operational
 issues facing the organization, but they are important steps," said Mr. Sape,
 who is managing partner of Epstein, Becker & Green, a large New York law firm.
 "Separating the operational and oversight functions of The James Beard
 Foundation is critical to ensure that our accounting and financial structure
 is properly repaired, and will remain sound, transparent and effective as The
 Foundation continues to grow."
     "And let us be clear: The good work of the James Beard Foundation
 continues," Mr. Sape said. "There is no organization in this country that has
 had a more positive impact in promoting the culinary arts. We intend to keep
 it that way."
     Trustees were briefed on the results of a three-month internal
 investigation conducted by outside counsel Michael Berger that showed that
 certain expenditures of The Foundation were not properly substantiated or
 documented. The investigation produced no findings of wrongdoing on the part
 of the paid staff of The Foundation, or the many outside volunteers who donate
 their time in support of The Foundation.
     The Trustees took quick action to address the investigation's findings by
 improving internal controls for foundation expenses and addressing management
 oversight of various of The Foundation's programs.
     The Trustees also retained new accountants, Goldstein, Golub and Kessler
 (GGK) to act as The Foundation's outside accountants. The new auditing team
 has been charged with addressing The Foundation's delinquent filing of
 financial documents at both the state and federal level. The Trustees and Mr.
 Berger also have been working with the office of the New York State Attorney
 General to resolve issues relating to The Foundation's failure to file annual
 reports in 2003 and 2004.
     Once the proper accounting and auditing of The Foundation's finances are
 complete, the Board of Trustees will consider appropriate next steps.
     Mr. Sape said: "We have a foundation whose administration and financial
 oversight functions did not keep pace with the rapid growth of the
 organization. That changes today."
     "The Trustees are committed to ensuring that The James Beard Foundation
 remains financially strong, culturally vibrant, and dedicated to preserving
 James Beard's legacy and commitment to the culinary arts."

SOURCE James Beard Foundation