Group Admits Mishandling Calif. Victim Funds

SAN DIEGO --

Officials with the local chapter for Habitat for Humanity said on Tuesday that the organization made a mistake in handling donations for the 2007 wildfire victims.

About $733,000 was raised but none of the money was spent on rebuilding homes destroyed by the fire. The money had been co-mingled with other construction funds.

"The organization should have been better stewards of donor funds and we want to make sure those funds are used to assist wildfire victims," said Chris Marek, the chief officer of development strategy for Habitat of Humanity. "The organization has two accounts: restricted and unrestricted. We should have had a third account segregated for wildfire funds."

San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob said she is confident that the organization's board of directors sincerely wants to correct how it handled the funds.

She said she wants a report when the money is finally dispensed.

"The board was not doing its job in overseeing what was going on in the organization and holding staff accountable that was clear to me," said Jacob.

Marek said negotiations are under way with the American Red Cross to distribute $302,000 in wildfire funds that are still being held by Habitat for Humanity.

The organization's former chief executive officer, Brad Bates, is no longer with Habitat for Humanity and is suing the organization.

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