The president and chief financial officer of a long-established Bible organization that receives tens of millions of dollars in donations each year have been placed on temporary leave as the charity is investigated for financial stewardship.
The American Bible Society recently came under scrutiny by a New York Times reporter for paying more than $5 million to Internet contractor Richard J. Gordon who has been linked to making profit from online pornography and to financial impropriety.
But in the midst of the scandal, ABS spokesman Roy Lloyd says the charity is the "innocent victim."
Over the last two years since the Rev. Dr. Paul G. Irwin became head, the Christian organization has been in the process of "restructuring," as Lloyd stated, to become more efficient and effective in its mission to make the Bible available to every person in a language and format each can understand and afford. That included revamping Web sites, strengthening its publishing end and launching a television program, among other projects.
The 192-year-old Bible organization, one of the largest in the country, did not have a strong Information Technology team so it outsourced its Internet projects just as it had done with all of its printing.
ABS president Irwin hired Gordon after having experienced success with the Internet contractor in previous years.
Irwin explained to The New York Times that the organization paid millions to Exciting New Technologies Gordon's company in the last two years to help get the charity up to speed on the Internet.
"It was so far behind the curve on Internet development that we simply were in the process of rapidly ramping up," Irwin said. "The tax form will show next year that we spent a lot less, and the year after that will show we will continue to spend a lot less.
It was a simple pursuit to be more effective as a Bible organization but Irwin said he was unaware of Gordon's ties to the pornography industry.
"I have absolutely no knowledge of Richard Gordons involvement in pornography, he told the Times. If anyone can provide me evidence that he is involved in pornography, then I want you to know he will be out of the American Bible Society today.
After Gordon's financial impropriety was brought to their attention by the Times reporter, the American Bible Society terminated all existing contracts with Gordon last week.
"We had no knowledge of this," Lloyd explained to The Christian Post. "So we tried to track this down and had nothing that we could verify on our end because we knew nothing about it.
"But any hint of impropriety that would affect the Bible society cannot be tolerated," Lloyd emphasized.
The ABS announced Tuesday that the Board of Trustees has committed to a full and independent review of the financial stewardship of the American Bible Society. The review was prompted by the suggestion in the Times article, which was published Sunday, that Gordon might have mishandled donations for some of his other clients.
"We have to absolutely be sure that he hasn't done something to us," Lloyd said. Thats why the Board said 'we need to assure our friends, our donors, our staff, everyone that this hasn't happened. We're going to conduct a thorough investigation to make sure he didn't do us in.'"
In the meantime, Irwin and Chief Financial Officer Richard Steward have agreed to step aside to ensure a neutral investigation.
"This is simply a matter of the board wanting to make certain that they are taking every available step to reassure donors and all interested parties that they are keeping a very close eye on all activities, to make sure that there hasnt been any wrongdoing," an ABS spokeswoman told The New York Times.
The length of the investigation has not been determined but Lloyd stressed that the Bible society wants to be able to "meet the gold standard of integrity."