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Cindy Sheehan, Michael Moore and Veterans for Peace: Incompetence in responding to Katrina

A reader sent me a long letter, the bulk of which comes from a Free Republic posting which I will reproduce in large part here, with what I hope is helpful commentary appearing in italicized red font:

Camp Casey III Fires Lawyers, Lawyers Say $100K May Be Missing September 20, 2005

It would appear Cindy Sheehan's Veterans For Peace, have terminated the services of their lawyers, Buddy and Annie Spell. [I think the author means for us to understand that Cindy Sheehan and VfP are allies, and not that Cindy Sheehan created VfP, which is not true]

Spells terminated / failed to provide relief

Spells no Longer involved in Disaster Relief / Fail to provide service

Dear Ms. Arata-Spell and Mr. Spell,

I am writing to request the following be delivered to Monica Hampton at The Green Room, tomorrow, Monday September 16 at 1pm.
1. All records, receipts, and chart of accounts relating to Veterans for Peace, chapter 116. These items include
+ The notebook of receipts supplied to Ms. Arata-Spell and Mr. Spell by Monica Hampton on September 16;
+ requests-for-reimbursements filled out by vounteers and VFP;
+ receipts on inventory ordered and delivery confirmation;
+ reimbursed receipts.

2. Copies of every check written to pay for VFP expenditures, as well as an inventory of what items were bought and delivered with those monies.

3. A reimbursement request for each separate receipt or outstanding purchase order and delivery confirmation put in by Ms. Arata-Spell and Mr. Spell including description of how monies spent were used for immediate relief.

4. Three pre-signed blank checks on the VFP Redwood Credit Union account, signed by Patrick Tate., VFP chapter 116 president.

5. All donations received by Ms. Arata-Spell and Mr. Spell on behalf of VFP chapter 116, including a $300 cash donation from Mid-Rivers Ethical Society.

6. A list of any and all vendor or other accounts opened on behalf of VFP chapter 116 and any purchase orders on those accounts.

Upon receipt of the requested materials, to be supplied to Monica Hampton no later than 1pm Monday, September, 19 2005, the VFP chapter will immediately review the reimbursement request submitted by Ms. Arata-Spell and Mr. Spell, and will supply a check or direct wire to The Spells for the agreed amount. We request five business hours (defined as Monday - Friday, 9am-5pm) to review the materials supplied to us before the money transfer can occur. As you know, Ms. Spell, we are waiting for the money to be transferred into the Louisiana bank, which may delay this timetable. To expedite the reimbursement of the monies, please provide us with any computer records available.

Twenty four hours after the monies are received by Ms. Arata-Spell and Mr. Spell (and after it is that the file can be opened), all computer files and accounting records generated by the Spells are to be deleted.

Thank you both for your efforts during the time we worked together.


Patrick Tate
Veterans for Peace
Chapter 116


Michael McPhearson
Executive Director
Veterans for Peace, inc."

This termination letter from VfP was posted at a Democratic Underground forum, then removed. It was followed by this response from the Spells, also posted at the Democratic Underground, also deleted soon after.

Annie and Buddy Spell asked me to post this for them as they still do not have internet access.

Freddy Danforth, Gordon Sodoberg, Dennis Kyne, and it is assumed Pat Tate and Alex Ellison-Tomlinson have left Covington, LA spending only $1,000 of $370,000 donated to the Hurricane Relief effort. The Hurricane struck Covington, LA Aug 29th.

Unfortunately these Veterans For Peace have left behind 100 volunteers w/out any resources and at least 7 trucks of additional items being brought in from all over America.

Some of the volunteers are currently stranded w/out the ability to return to camp or homes because Freddy Danforth, Gordon Sodoberg, Dennis Kyne, Pat Tate and Alex Ellison-Tomlinson have failed to supply any sort of remibusement mechanism.

Annie Spell was given check writing authority on Friday Sept. 16th, however Freddy Danforth, Gordon Sodoberg, Dennis Kyne, Pat Tate and Alex Ellison-Tomlinson failed to transfer the entirety, $350,000 of the funds. But Pat Tate told Annie the funds needed to clear through an account in a Credit Union which would be 10 days from this past Saturday.

Accordingly the donation for immediate relief will not be available until 1 month after the storm hit.

Annie Spell was able to write a check for $1,000 to get water into Bogalusa.

Buddy has personally guaranteed and delivered $30,000 of immediately needed supplies including chainsaws, generators and other tools and has not been reimbursed.

All of this while the bus heads to Washington, DC to bask in the glow of all their great works."

Recall Cindy Sheehan's words concerning President Bush's response to Katrina: "George Bush has been an incompetent failure his entire life.

The Camp Casey movement has been struggling with how best we can help the government ravaged people of New Orleans and the surrounding areas. We sent a bus load of supplies into Covington, La., which is a poor, African-American town across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans. I had the privilege of visiting Covington with my friends, Buddy and Annie Spell last July. It was a community filled with love and laughter.

The unnecessary tragedy in New Orleans is directly related to the unnecessary tragedy in Iraq: Unnecessary being the operative word." I think Sheehan should be careful about tossing around accusations of incompetence.

But there is incompetence and then there is criminality:

$100,000 might be missing. A post by Anita Spell.

"Here's what is going on now…I hope I can stay on-line long enough to get this out and answer any questions:

Friday, Sept. 16th, the Michael Moore people and Veterans for Peace people approved the purchase of 25 generators, electric chords, and chain saws, gas and oil from local vendors in Franklinton, LA to be supplied to families in Arcola who are without power.

When we spoke with the vendors they said they would be more than willing to help out, however the purchase totalled about $28,000.00 and they had no idea who the Michael Moore and Veterans for Peace people were. We were assured by Pat Tate of VfP that over $100,000.00 was in the account in Mandeville, LA, so Buddy and I allowed the purchases to be placed on our account. These vendors generously offered to deliver (at no cost) the generators to Arcola.

Yesterday (Monday, Sept. 19th) I was told by the account manager in Mandeville, LA that I could not write checks from the Mandeville account. (I was put on the account Friday, Sept. 16th) because I had been taken off the account earlier that morning.

I called Michael McPhearson, Executive Director of Vfp yesterday. He told me that he doesn't know the location of the $100,000.00 and the account in Mandeville, LA has been closed because the local person on the account (me) has been taken off the account.

He said that he hoped to get approval from the Board of Directors of VfP to come to Covington, LA late Wednesday evening and open a new account at another local bank, possibly on Thursday.

What all this means is that local vendors are out $28,000.00 and Buddy and I are on the hook for $28,000.00. So, Buddy is understandably distressed.

I got a letter hand delivered to my house yesterday at 9:00 AM from the Veterans for Peace and the Michael Moore people. They wanted me to give them a list of every single person (with an address) that had received any relief. I'm assuming they mean the houses that received the 25 generators. Pretty ridiculous. Of course we can supply that information, we know these people. Don't know if they are also asking every other volunteer to do the same.

With their approval, we also paid for and delivered a truck load of water to residents in Bogalusa. It was delivered last Friday. Monica took our check and hand delivered it to the truck driver. I don't know if she has been asked to provide a list of who received the water.

My computer is blinking.

I'm going to post this and see if it goes through.

If I can, I'll get back on."

Michael Moore wants the address of every person who received relief? Whatever for? So that they can star in some anti-Bush commercial? Or so that Moore and company can take back the generators and try to get these local vendors off their backs?

So where did the $100,000 go? To build a hurricane-proof shelter in which Michael Moore can store all his twinkies?

That ends the Free Republic portion. A reader sent me a followup.

Apparently this is just a big misunderstanding:

Last night rumors started popping up about the mishandling of funds meant for direct-aid for the victims of hurricane victims by Veterans for Peace and/or the Spell family. As someone who has spent some time with most of the individuals involved in this controversy, I decided to look into these allegations myself. This is my report after talking with Buddy and Annie Spell this morning on the phone.

After Hurricane Katrina, Buddy & Annie Spell set up a kitchen at a park near their home in a suburb of New Orleans. Veterans For Peace (VFP) set up camp in the Spell's damaged house to man the kitchen and manage the logistics for the disaster. Michael Moore, seeing how incompetent the Feds were at helping the victims of the Katrina, helped raise approximately $300,000 - $500,000 for VFP to be used as direct-aid for hurricane victims. (As of the writing of this post, I do not have an exact number as to the amount raised.)

Apparently, VFP hasn't used most of the money that was donated to them for Hurricane relief yet. The reason for this is unclear, but I suspect in all the confusion over the past few weeks, no one felt they were authorized to start shepherding the paperwork for the direct-aid account.

On Friday, September 17th, when local hurricane victims started to ask where the direct-aid money was getting spent, Annie Spell was put in charge of the direct-aid account. The next day she was asked by VFP to cut a check for $17,000 so that they could purchase equipment to document the reconstruction and use of the donated funds.

When the request for the media equipment came, most volunteers thought that there should have been at least $100,000 in the direct-aid account. (After all, it had been almost 3 weeks since the funds had been promised.) However, when Mrs. Spell looked at the books, she saw that the funds had not transfered yet and there was only $3000 available for immediate use. She cut a check for $1000 to bring potable water to the city of Bogalusa, but refused to authorize the spending for the media equipment because the account didn't have the money at the time.

Apparently, the refusal of Annie Spell to authorize the $17,000 upset the VFP leadership. They took her name off the direct-aid account and drove to DC for the huge protest coming this weekend... neglecting to explain to the volunteers still in Louisiana what was going on.

In my option, there is no scandal here: It's an unfortunate spat between the Spell family and VFP. Charity transactions like this take time to fully process, and the VFP people didn't understand how important it was to follow through with the authorization process. Everyone involved has been under a tremendous amount of pressure, and at this point the volunteers are exhausted.

The controversy has taken a lot out of the Spell family, and they are disassociating themselves from VFP and the peace movement. I pray that the wounds caused from all this will heal quickly.

"Apparently, VFP hasn't used most of the money that was donated to them for Hurricane relief yet. The reason for this is unclear, but I suspect in all the confusion over the past few weeks, no one felt they were authorized to start shepherding the paperwork for the direct-aid account."

Criminal incompetence! Impeach Sheehan! Impeach Moore! But then managing this "takes time" and everyone is "under pressure". You don't hear President Bush making lame excuses. He takes the blame for the actions, or lack of action, of others, and commits himself to fixing the problem.

So out of $350,000 donated by the loonie left to help people in trouble, they managed to buy $1000 worth of water, then took off to Washington to protest the evil Bush administration. I bet the evil Bush administration and his occupation forces from the National Guard managed to do better than that.

But the last line is the best: "I pray that the wounds caused from all this will heal quickly."

Translation: "I hope everyone forgets about this soon."

Interesting that he prays for the wounds to heal. He doesn't demand that an accounting of what happened take place, an audit of how the money was managed, or a that Sheehan, Moore and VfP take responsibility for what happened.

In other words, he isn't demanding that they act, well, Presidential.

[While all this is going on, Cindy Sheehan and company were hanging out with these people.]

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