MUNSTER | The board and executive director of One Region have hired an outside accounting firm to comb through the organization’s finances following an allegation of financial impropriety.
Dennis Rittenmeyer, executive director of One Region, said David Bochnowski, Peoples Bank Chairman and Chief Executive Officer and One Region treasurer, was alerted to a potential issue with a staff member Dec. 7.
Rittenmeyer said the staff member, an employee of the Quality of Life Council who was retained when the Council merged with One Region in May, admitted to stealing an undetermined amount of money and has been terminated.
"The outside auditing firm, which has not yet finished its work, has uncovered some accounting discrepancies," Rittenmeyer said. "We have also been in contact with the Munster Police Department to determine how to proceed, legally. Every member of the board has been informed of what has taken place and next steps."
William J. Lowe, chancellor of Indiana University Northwest and co-chair of the One Region board, said new safeguards are already in place to protect the group's finances.
"Ours is an organization that is sustained by donors in the community, including IUN, five other colleges and universities, business, industry and civic groups," Lowe said. "I have full confidence in our executive director and in the organization going forward that this was a very unfortunate circumstance, which will not be repeated."
Bill Masterson Jr., publisher of The Times Media Co. and co-chair of the One Region board, said the group is determined to take the steps necessary to move forward.
"I am thankful for David Bochnowski and Dennis Rittenmeyer, who did a tremendous job assessing the situation and taking corrective action," Masterson said.
"In the days and weeks to come, we will know the final tally of what is missing and take every action to get the money back. We consider every dollar donated to One Region to be a precious gift, money that was collected for programs to make our region better. We will move forward on all of these programs. It may be, however, that we have to do them with a little less money -- at least in the short term."
One Region is a collaboration between region officials from three counties intent on improving the quality of life in Northwest Indiana. Formerly two independent entities - One Region, One Vision and The Quality of Life Council - the groups united in May with a goal of boosting all quality-of-life indicators for the region and its residents. The group is governed by a 16-member board of directors and managed daily by Executive Director Rittenmeyer.