Bankrupt architect non-profit group face legal action

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Founders and board members of non-profit group Architecture for Humanity (AFH) are set to be hit with a $3m lawsuit.

Last year the US-based organization with more than 60 chapters worldwide, closed and declared bankruptcy, amidst speculation as to what had gone wrong.

Now, according to trade sources, members are being sued for alleged mismanagement of funds.

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On June 10, a court-appointed trustee filed a complaint against the group’s founders Cameron Sinclai and Kate Stohr, who were paid employees, and 10 members of the board of directors, who served as volunteers.

These included entrepreneurs, tech experts, and architects, including Toshiko Mori, a prominent New York-based architect, and Clark Manus, the former president of the American Institute of Architects (AIA).

The other board members named are Matthew Charney, Clifford Curry, Paul Gabie, Niama Jacobs, Scott Mattoon, Taylor Milsal, Narry Singh, and Margaret Stewart.

The lawsuit, filed in the San Francisco division of the US Bankruptcy Court, alleges that the defendants acted with gross negligence and breached their fiduciary (holding assets in trust for a beneficiary) duties between July 21, 2012, and December 31, 2014.

Specifically, the suit alleges improper using of “restricted funds”—charitable contributions with specific requirements—and violating agreements with donors.

The trustee, Janina Hoskins, is seeking $3 million in damages, the approximate amount of restricted funds believed to have been improperly spent.

The money would be distributed to companies, organizations, and individuals who are creditors associated with the bankruptcy case. There are 170 such creditors, according to court documents.

AFH was an influential nonprofit founded in 1999 in New York by Sinclair, a UK-born architectural designer, and Stohr, an American journalist.

The duo, who married, later relocated to San Francisco. Both left the organization in 2013, during the period when the alleged mismanagement of funds was taking place.

During its 15 years in operation, AFH evolved into a leading charitable organisation that helped design and build projects in distressed communities worldwide. In its later years, the group became particularly well known for its work in regions devastated by natural disasters.

Projects included rebuilding schools in Haiti that were destroyed by the 2010 earthquake; approximately a dozen projects in Japan following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami; and a long-term reconstruction plan for areas in New York and New Jersey that were ravaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

 

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