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 organization. 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 1996. 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 Committee. "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