EPD excluded from ECHO Housing investigation, police say

Local News

The Evansville Police Department says it is being excluded from investigating what it is calling the possible misuse of ECHO Housing Corporation funds.

This comes long-time Executive Director Stephanie Tenbarge suddenly resigned last week from the non-profit that provides housing for Evansville’s homeless and veterans.

At the time, ECHO’s attorney, Scott Wylie, would not tell Eyewitness News why Tenbarge left, but did tell us “all donor funds have been accounted for.”

Days later, Eyewitness News’ media partner, the Evansville Courier & Press, reported Tenbarge used an ECHO Housing check to pay her Spring 2017 property tax payment for her home.

On Wednesday night, Evansville Police Sgt. Jason Cullum sent Eyewitness News the following statement:

“Since the allegations of misuse of ECHO funds first came to the attention of the Evansville Police Department, we have spoken with members of the ECHO Board of Directors on several occasions. During those conversations, we requested the ECHO Board of Directors have a representative file a police report. That action would be needed if a criminal investigation into the allegations is being sought. Despite repeated request, the ECHO Board of Directors has refused to file a report with the Evansville Police Department. 
Earlier today, the ECHO Interim Executive Director contacted a member of the Board of Directors and petitioned them to file a report and allow the Evansville Police Department to be a part of the investigation into the misuse of ECHO funds. That request was denied. 
As a non-profit 501 3 (c) entity, the ECHO Board has complete control over the decision to exclude the Evansville Police Department from this situation. As of this afternoon, the Board’s decision to exclude the Evansville Police Department has not changed. 
Due to the serious nature of the allegations and the fact that ECHO receives federal funds provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Evansville Police Department contacted the HUD Inspector General’s Office in Indianapolis. At this time, it is unknown if any HUD money was misused.”
Cullum also says EPD has contacted the Department of Housing and Urban Development Inspector General’s Office in Indianapolis as ECHO Housing receives federal money from the department.”

In response, Wylie tells Eyewitness News that Echo Housing’s board has tried to deal with this matter which has become public privately. He also says ECHO is asking a professional to review it’s funds.

Eyewitness News has also learned the mayor’s office is requesting the ECHO board hire a forensic accountant. Also, City Council member Jonathan Weaver is asking ECHO have an independent audit.

Weaver tweeted the following statement on Wednesday night:

Eyewitness news has repeatedly asked for comment from Stephanie Tenbarge and the new Interim Executive Director Chris Metz. Neither has responded.

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(This story was originally published on March 21, 2018)

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