Triad City Beat | EDITO: A bad look for Derwin Montgomery, and yet…

Derwin Montgomery’s August 29 indictment contains some of the details the news can’t: A detailed list of the alleged fraud – 14 counts, each for less than $5,000, totaling $23,940.25 $, and a 15e count alleging embezzlement of federal funds which brings the federal total to $26,299.57. That’s what they say Montgomery siphoned off from the Bethesda Homeless Center for a 3-month period between 2018 and 2020, where he was executive director earning over $73,000 a year…until he stepped down abruptly in December 2020.

According to the document, the money was spent on hotels and plane tickets, the use of his car and a few hundred dollars at a strip club in Las Vegas. The bulk, $23,000, went to Montgomery’s media production company, Media Elevation, for creative services such as video production and marketing. Uplift Media LLC has since been dissolved.

It’s a bad look for the former Winston-Salem city councilman and state legislator, who is the current pastor of First Baptist Calvary Church.

But an analysis of the indictment raises more questions than answers, starting with the fact that $26,000 isn’t that much money, even for the nonprofit Bethesda Center, which the documents say taxes, has generated more than $1 million in revenue from donations and grants. just in 2020.

Not that anyone should steal them! But the document lacks key context regarding the nature of Montgomery’s trip — was it for work? – and adjusting the amounts. For example, spending $1,000 on a “luxury” hotel in Los Angeles would barely cover a single night in one of the city’s top hotels. One night at Hotel Bel Aire, for example, is greater than $1,200. As for $260 in strip club dollars…well, people go to the strip club all the time on expense accounts, and $260 isn’t exactly a crazy night.

Since Montgomery pleaded not guilty, those details should emerge in court.

It appears Montgomery breached a conflict of interest by hiring his own media company, and the amounts – all under $5,000, which meant they didn’t need board approval – are suspect.

But we don’t know the difference between what Uplift provided and that of the “free” company that was willing to make a charitable donation, an arrangement put in place by “Board Member-1”, as they are called in the indictment. Citing a print advertising contract with the Winston-Salem Log as evidence of overlap in creative services seems to be a reach.

As for charging Bethesda for the use of his car…he’s on his own for that one.

But the bigger question is the momentum of the investigation. Montgomery’s roughly $25,000, or about $10,000 a year, didn’t trigger an IRS audit and it’s probably not the most egregious example of fraud in the Middle District of Carolina. North. Why would federal agents focus on such small potatoes?

And why now?

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