MBA still searching for answers

By : Jamie Hyman
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Orlando – The Metropolitan Business Association is in talks with police about pursuing charges against Mikael Audebert, its former president, but the organization has not yet made the move.

Audebert resigned from the MBA in October and was fired from his post as executive director of Come Out With Pride in November. Since then, the MBA Board and its subsidiary organizations have revealed a financial mess, blaming Audebert, and told Watermark Dec. 2 they planned to go to the authorities with their findings of alleged financial fraud.

Nayte Carrick, current president of the MBA, pointed to two suspicious transactions: a $1,300 transfer from the MBA account to Audebert’s personal business account, and a $2,000 transfer to an MBA escrow account.

Patrick Howell, Audebert’s attorney, told Watermark that the $1,300 was a reimbursement to Audebert for two Delta Airline tickets to Las Vegas for an MBA event and the $2,000 was a transfer into a special joint account shared by the MBA and The GLBT Center of Central Florida, Inc. set up to handle expenses related to The Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast.

Based on Watermark’s report, Carrick said they were able to justify the $2,000 transfer and found Audebert did not do anything improper. However, he said they’re still looking into the $1,300 transfer and are still in talks with the Orlando Police Department.

“We’ve had an initial conversation just to verify what kind of information [police] would need and basically just to get the process moving,” Carrick said. “They had confirmed for us that it is important to be thorough and accurate so we’re continuing to look into everything.”

The MBA held Board member elections Dec. 3 and all positions were filled.

“The new board members are aware [of the investigation], but for the most part everybody is focused on growing and getting better,” Carrick said.

He added that the new MBA treasurer, Michael Thomas, would be appointed to the treasurer post for Come Out With Pride, as well. The Come Out with Pride Board has been “meeting regularly,” Carrick said, and they’re looking at a plan for 2015 with a new, tighter budget.

“The goal was to streamline the budget and the events,” he said. “[The Pride Board] will be without an executive director for 2015 so it will be back to a working board.”

He said thanks to “a very careful and thoughtful budget,” things are in place for COWP to have a budget surplus, plus bring back Pride Gives Back, and local grant program, and scholarships for LGBT students.

“It’s going to be a bitch to pull it off,” Carrick said. “We’re really looking at giving back to the core mission for Pride, and that involves serving the community, providing a place and a time for us to celebrate our diversity and use that as a way to give back to the community, so I’m really focusing on that giving aspect of what we’re doing. Some of the things that had been production value previously, now we’re turning into a way to use the program to give back.”

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