Poarch official clears the air

Published 4:23 pm Wednesday, October 19, 2005

By By Adam Prestridge
Poarch Creek Indian officials want to set the record straight regarding rumors of missing funds that have been circulating for the last two weeks.
Monday evening, Tribal Council treasurer Arthur Mothershed clarified several statements Tribal Chairman Fred L. McGhee made to The Advance on Oct. 11 via cell phone while attending the United South and Eastern Tribes (USET) meetings in Orlando, Fla. Rumors of as much as $4 million in missing funds and related investigations began circulating in Atmore around Oct. 6.
"There are no missing monies," Mothershed said. "That's the main thing we want to reiterate. We're conducting an internal audit to ensure that we got what we paid for."
Mothershed stated that when McGhee made an earlier statement that there have been some "poor decision making" by the PCI Gaming Board, he was referring to payment for services within the Poarch community, mainly construction cost.
"The money is not missing, it's a matter of are we overpaying for some of our projects?" Mothershed said. "It's not missing at all. It's money that we have paid out and we're not sure if we were overcharged for it. That's why the chairman (Fred L. McGhee) referenced to poor business decisions. Did we pay more than we should have for certain projects that are going on?"
Mothershed said that the Tribal Council has not questioned the purchasing or approval of construction costs by the gaming board, but believes that the Tribe may have been overcharged for several projects performed.
"We feel like the work needed to be done," Mothershed said. "It's not work that didn't need to be done."
Mothershed declined to discuss the Tribe's internal policies and procedures for bidding out construction work. He also declined to discuss any particular projects that the Tribal Council believes were allegedly overcharged.
"I'd rather not give any specifics at this time because I don't want to pull people into this that may in fact be innocent bystanders," Mothershed said. "At this point, we would rather not get anybody else involved. We'd rather handle this internally until we can prove that there wasn't any excessive expenditures made."
The decision making of the PCI Gaming Board during these construction matters brought forth the Council's decision to strip the gaming board of all its decision-making authority, thus, resulting in the suspension of former Tribal Chairman Eddie Tullis from the gaming board, which he chaired. Tullis is also a Tribal Council member.
"We're not accusing anybody of taking anything," Mothershed said. "There were several questions raised about the spending of the PCI Gaming Board and due to that the decision making was removed from them."
Mothershed said Tullis was suspended simply because he chaired the gaming board and his authority would no longer be needed while it was under Tribal Council control.
Tribal officials are unaware of how so many rumors began to circulate of an alleged embezzlement.
"It's hard to fight the rumor mill," Mothershed said. "Anytime that people start hearing that you're looking into a matter, the rumor mill kicks up. I'm not sure where it came from. I know it didn't come from the chairman's office or the PCI Gaming office."
Rumors of $65,000 thought to be missing from PCI also resurfaced two weeks ago following the Tribal Council's Oct. 4 meeting. An agenda item called for discussion of the alleged missing funds and the funds transaction from the Creek Bingo Palace in Atmore and a local bank.
The agenda item stated that the FBI had assisted in the matter, but McGhee stated that he was unaware of such involvement.
"The FBI was involved in that investigation, but that was a few years back and the trail had pretty much gone cold at this point," Mothershed confirmed. "The FBI doesn't have enough information. We're not sure if they're going to continue the investigation or not, but they are re-looking at it at the request of Tribal Council members."
Again, Mothershed doesn't believe anyone with PCI took the money.
"One thing I would like to clear up is that the money didn't get misplaced between the Creek Bingo Palace and the bank," Mothershed said. "We feel like the money made it to the bank. In our internal investigation, we firmly feel like the money made it to the bank. We don't think we made an accounting error. From all indications, it made it to the bank."

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