AG freezes Christmas Bureau bank accounts


by MORGAN CHESKY / KVUE News and Photojournalist DEREK RASOR

Posted on December 5, 2012 at 11:09 PM

Updated Thursday, Dec 6 at 8:09 AM

AUSTIN -- At their headquarters in South Austin, Blue Santa volunteers do their best to keep up. There are still plenty of presents left to wrap. The only problem is that they may be outnumbered by the people in need.

"What this is is somebody's inability to run the Christmas Bureau, that's what this comes down to," said Joe Munoz from the Blue Santa program.

A longtime partner of Blue Santa, the Christmas Bureau's money typically helps families in need that Blue Santa can't.

Wednesday, the bureau's funds were frozen in a court order.

The attorney general's office charged Christmas Bureau president Shon Washington with deceptive trade. An investigation revealed Washington as a felon with multiple theft convictions. Officials believe he took donations out of the non-profit's bank account.

"Every now and then a situation like this emerges and it teaches us all some lessons," Matt Kouri, the executive director of Greenlights said .

Greenlights is a group focused on teaching successful strategies to non profits which face different challenges than business.

"No one owns them, they are held in the public trust and the keepers of that public trust are the Board of Directors of that organization," Kouri said.

When we checked the Christmas Bureau's board, both Blue and Brown Santa representatives were members. Still there was no background check when Washington came on board.

"The needs of this community are tremendous are growing...But don't let a situation like this discourage you to not give this holiday season," Kouri said.

With applications still coming in, volunteers hope donations can keep Christmas on track.