Board of directors for Urban Child Institute refuses to answer financial questions

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. —The Urban Child Institute is sitting on big dollars, $157 million in assets in 2013.

Now the nonprofit is under scrutiny for only pumping about $2 million back into the public through grants to seven organizations that read like a who's who list:

  • Leadership Memphis' Class of 2012
  • Neighborhood Christian Center
  • The University of Memphis Research Foundation
  • Victorian Village
  • Leadership Academy
  • Memphis Women's Foundation

The biggest grant, $1 million in 2013, was given to the University of Tennessee Office of the Treasury.

A big red flag is that many of the organizations are in some way affiliated with a board member on the Urban Child Institute's board of directors.

In fact, the chair of the board, Hershel Wall, is the special assistant to the U-T president.

When we went to talk with him Friday, he refused to meet with us and told us the Urban Child Institute's board of directors has hired an attorney who has instructed them to keep quiet.

So like the president of the Urban Child Institute, Gene Cashman, board members aren't talking about the institute's finances or the fact that Cashman made more than $700,000 in compensation in 2012 as president of the nonprofit and more than $600,000 in 2013. The institute's secretary made $400,000.

The Alliance for Nonprofit Excellence said nonprofit organizations don't have carte blanche on their operations. Because they are tax exempt, they have to be accountable to the public. Excessive salaries and sitting on cash are things frowned on by the IRS.

The Alliance for Nonprofit Excellence did a study of nonprofit salaries in Memphis. It found the average nonprofit executive in Memphis had a salary of $75,000.

The exception was hospitals with thousands of employees. Those executives made around a million, but again, they run huge businesses.

The Urban Child Institute has only 11 employees for Cashman's $700,000 compensation.

Now that he is out, Cashman's replacement is the organization's secretary, Hank Herrod, the other employee who makes $400,000.

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