Earlier this year, the former president of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. was exonerated on claims she misappropriated organization funds. But Barbara McKinzie is facing new allegations, this time in a lawsuit brought by a former leader of the sorority.

Julia Purnell, who at 94 is the oldest living president of the nation’s oldest Black sorority, was one of two members to sue McKinzie last summer and has brought the new suit against her. A court-ordered audit of the organization’s financial records in August found more than $1 million in checks written to McKinzie since her induction as president in 2006. Some $2.2 million in “questionable” funds were withdrawn from another group account.

The AKA presidency is listed as an unpaid position.

Also in question are approximately $170,000 in life insurance payments paid with AKA funds; over a dozen missing checks, each over $10,000, as well as often confusing or inaccurate recording of funds McKinzie received.

In addition to the allegations that she pocketed compensation and retirement and tax benefits, records show McKinzie paid at least $56,000 for a painting and statue of herself, which stands in the Great Blacks in Wax Museum in Baltimore.

According to court documents, the organization’s officials were slow to turn over requested financial records and at one point was in contempt of court.

“It is the opinion of the investigators that the preliminary findings to date would warrant a much more detailed examination and analysis of the books and records of AKA,” according to the documents. “The areas that should be focused on include a review of the additional bank accounts focusing on similar suspect payments as found in the review of the general account an interview with Barbara McKinzie regarding questionable charges.”

Further investigations are pending until Purnell and fellow plaintiff Kenitra Shackelford-Johnson find money for another audit, a source said. Some members of AKA are helping raise funds for the case through the website Friends of the Weeping Ivy.

Last month, sorority members appealed the February dismissal of the first case against McKinzie. If granted, she would face a renewal of that lawsuit in a separate court.

McKinzie has denied all allegations against her.

“Change never comes easy,” McKinzie wrote in a statement published on the Web site of Diverse Issues in Higher Education. “The malicious allegations leveled against AKA by former leaders are based on mischaracterizations and fabrications not befitting our ideals of sisterhood, ethics and service.”

Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority named a new president in July. The organization was the first Black Greek Letter Organization for women and was founded in 1908.

 

Shernay Williams

Special to the AFRO