N.A.R.K. was founded by Cherie Kurarangi Sweeney after being branded a ‘nark’ for speaking to police about the death of Ngaruawahia baby Serenity Scott-Dinnington. Cherie turned this label around into the Nation of Advocates for the Rights of Kids.
The following is a media release from the organisation.
Nark wishes to clarify that concerns about financial management of the group, soon to file for charitable status are unfounded. Rumors of scamming stem from teething problems within the group that came to a head with a walk out by one faction of volunteers but no monies are unaccounted for.
Reimbursement had been sought for t-shirts allegedly ordered but no-one could produce so much as an invoice or receipt for said items.
The Founder Mrs Sweeney says she couldn’t find one shop carrying an order for Nark logo t-shirts after e-mailing all printers, so the request for “reimbursement” for alleged personal outgoings for t-shirts of which there was no proof of existence from the former Treasurer requesting recompense was denied by the Interim Board. As was a volunteers request for some form of wage well before that was viable or NARK a registered entity.
The former Treasurer’s complaints to the Herald this past weekend are invalid – the Board exercised diligence in requiring accountability.
Nark acknowledges public concern over our Founders appeal on Facebook (reproduced in Trade Me by another well meaning person) to help her to prevent a mortgagee sale of her house, by gifting to her $2 – only if they could afford it. Her ability to meet payments was affected by the onset of epilepsy in August 2010, which wasn’t stabilised until October.
Although the mortgage appeal was a personal matter whereby Cherie had requested help from “only my friends and family and no-one else” Mrs Sweeney regrets any negative fall out this may have had on the organization (which had no prior knowledge of her appeal). “I acted on a suggestion from the budget advisory service to ask for help, and was desperate to safe guard the future of my Whanau”.
NARK’s Interim Board is dismayed that this matter has been jumped upon by an internet based gang to spearhead a campaign to smear this young role models good name, and to discredit the reputation of her fledgling organization – the Nation of Advocates for Rights of Kids (NARK).
Inaccurate reports about NARK’s finances are rife on the internet lately. The harassment has culminated in a particularly vicious and possibly defamatory blog write up by Ms Raue (Transparency NZ).
The blog titled “nark-what-kind-of-organisation-is-this” is rich on casting rumor based aspersions. Ms Raue plays Judge, Jury and Executioner in publishing this rubbish; “if you question Ms Cherie Sweeney she responds not with answers, but with malicious lies. How interesting. This is starting to look like fraud, or the best case scenario – major incompetence? Cherie is a fraud? Cherie is trying to get her snout in the trough…” It disregards all the facts Mrs Sweeney and the Nark board have tirelessly supplied on demand.
As published by Stuff last week Mrs Sweeney has never had any of the Public’s contributions to Nark in her personal account, nor did she ever make unauthorized use of it for issues unrelated to critical tasks for the running of the group. Nark funds were used judiciously by her with Board approval to attend one Hui with Dr Russell Wills for the consultation and Submission on the green paper and related community matters.
The interim board has seen no evidence of dishonest practices by Mrs Sweeney, and is concerned the witch hunt in motion could unfairly erode support, just as Nark adds finishing touches to a Constitution that will take the campaign to the next level and shortly enable Charities Commission registration. “The balance sheet balances, our income has not been large so any discrepancies would leap out but nothing does – there was no great t-shirt robbery” says Mrs Sweeney.
Regarding the non provision of 9 total t-shirt orders actually paid for by supporters out of a list of 29 interested parties, but not supplied with them (due to minimum order numbers for print runs being unmet), Mrs Sweeney personally saw to it that all buyers were offered and given refunds out of the $529 that others had collected once it was retrieved from volunteers personal accounts and put in Narks new CTU one. Accounts show this was sorted within about a month with four of the disappointed buyers up-taking the offer and the remainder leaving funds in as donations.
Katrina Crews, one former volunteer directly involved with the project, has publicly stated that “AT NO TIME did Cherie have access to those (t-shirt) funds donated to the nark interim account. She did not misuse those funds.” (posted to Cherie Nark NZ Show Us the Money Facebook Page). There was no great t-shirt robbery, the Board can assure the Public.
To address many murmurings about Nark funds going into multiple accounts, the monies for these t-shirts were moved about a bit prior to refund, and placed in a couple of volunteers personal accounts who went ahead and set up temporary accounts without even being requested to do so, as different people took over the t-shirt project from one another, only because NARK had not evolved an organizational or Governance structure as quickly as the community had rallied to support it.
It was not Mrs Sweeney who came up with several initial fundraising ideas nor who set up the Give a Little page,”I just accepted the help offered from all directions, and it has been a big learning curve”. NARK had no official NZCU bank account at that time and things happened on an ad hoc informal basis, so naturally there were no monthly account statements or balance sheets collated as a matter of course early on.
Narks board was able to acquire from those volunteers banking early Nark funds their personal statements detailing amounts collected from Westpac Glen Eden account of first funds banker, the National Bank Stratford account of appointed Treasurer who took over banking role as well as the financial summaries from the net fundraising site Give a Little.
To avoid repeats of responsibility being everywhere and nowhere (such as with the t-shirt debacle) an account specifically for NARK and under control of an elected Treasurer was thereafter opened.
Bank Statements show deposits from funds raised at the Toy Memorial Day totaling $873, all accounted for. So what other funds has NARK collected that may have been fraudulently siphoned off by a baby exploiting founder? The minutes taken at a meeting 19.09,2011 with Cherie Sweeney and four other Officers/volunteers present mention that monies (which remain untouched) had been accumulating at the give-a-little site web site (Weekly report on NARK week ending 17,09,2011). A BBQ fundraiser idea was floated with two Nark members keen to run them (not Sweeney).
The funds raised at one of these BBQs were stolen from the bag of an organizers friend so they were never received by Nark or Mrs Sweeney. Police said they were powerless, given that there was no such legal entity as NARK due to lack of registration with the charities commission, it was a civil matter. Nark could not responsibly fritter funds pursuing it.
This incident (atop other difficulties getting volunteers to properly apply collected funds e.g. to buy/supply t-shirts as promised) has strengthened the interim boards resolve to register as a charity as soon as is practicable. In the meantime the Public can be assured that Nark operates as per usual protocols for any Trust, with elected Officers, and proper book keeping.
Nark now has an interim board committed to best governance practices that will continue to champion the rights of children.
Nark’s founder wishes to acknowledge the board and others who have given her support in helping to bring these matters to a close.