Charity's new leader welcomes scrutiny; won't promise release of records

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by Scott Noll / KHOU 11 News I-Team

khou.com

Posted on April 4, 2014 at 11:08 PM

Updated Monday, Apr 7 at 10:27 AM

HOUSTON – A Houston-based charity under fire from critics is pledging to soldier on.

Helping a Hero provides homes for veterans severely injured in the war on terror.

“I look forward to seeing Helping a Hero continue building hundreds, if not thousands of homes,” Dan Moran said at a news conference Friday afternoon.

Questions about the way the charity does business began last month with the story of Hunter LeVine.

The Army Specialist blinded by a roadside bomb in Iraq received a home from Helping a Hero in 2011.

But after the 25-year-old died suddenly last year, the charity said it moved to re-purchase the home to give to another wounded veteran.

Now LeVine’s parents are challenging that move in court.

But Helping a Hero says LeVine agreed to the terms. “It never has been the intention, nor has it been stated in any type of contract that the homes we provide are for extended family members,” explained Moran.

In response to claims that the organization took advantage of LeVine’s blindness, today Helping a Hero released a photo that the group says proves LeVine’s father was next to him when he signed that contract.

But there are also questions about the charity’s finances.

As KHOU 11 News first reported in March, Marine Sgt. (Ret.) Eddie Wright who once served as a Helping a Hero board member, claimed he couldn’t get the charity’s leader to open up the books.

“We met with a lot of resistance,” Wright said at the time. “It was almost a militant resistance.”

Today, Helping a Hero introduced Col. (Ret.) Jeff Ragland as its new president and executive director.

“This is a transparent organization,” Ragland announced. “It is a non-profit organization. It’s got the right thing at heart and by God, we invite people to look at us.

So KHOU 11 News asked Ragland if he could commit to full openness and transparency, including releasing Helping a Hero’s bank statements, credit card statements and check ledgers.

“At this moment, I can’t,” said Ragland. “I’ve got to look at everything.”

When asked why not, Ragland said he had to get his “feet on the ground.”

The charity did promise to release the results of an audit currently underway.

The organization’s founder expected the audit to be completed in the next few months.

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