OKLAHOMA CITY – Two accountants are suing Feed The Children for wrongful dismissal after they notified the charity's board that the organization owed $1.1 million in taxes and that an official had tried to cover it up.
In a lawsuit filed in Oklahoma County District Court, Stephanie Dean and Stefani Hovarter said the charity fired them after they informed the board of the "potential fraud or illegality in the failure to report and pay taxes owed to the state of Oklahoma."
The board fired the accountants Sept. 29, the Oklahoman newspaper reported Saturday.
Feed The Children officials have declined comment.
The two accountants and an accounting supervisor notified the state Tax Commission on Sept. 17 that "we have detected a tax delinquency for Feed The Children."
At issue are "use" taxes that a purchaser is supposed to pay to the state for goods if a supplier doesn't charge sales taxes.
The accountants and the supervisor told the board in a memo Sept. 17 that the charity owed about $1.1 million in taxes for purchases from Jan. 1, 2002, to June 30.
"It is possible that a similar tax liability exists in other states," the accountants wrote.
They also alleged in the memo that Christy Tharp, the organization's chief financial officer, knew about the problem but didn't report it. The accountants alleged that she was hoping "that the statute of limitations would expire" without the Tax Commission finding out.
A call to Tharp on Saturday wasn't immediately returned.
The Oklahoma City-based hunger-relief organization has been mired in controversy for a year because of a dispute over who was in charge.
Founder Larry Jones agreed in August to give up operational control, but he continues to work for Feed The Children as a spokesman and fundraiser.
According to the charity's Web site, the charity has committed more than $1.06 billion to program services.
The accountants' lawsuit was filed Wednesday.