Board of Baltimore-Based AIDS Education Organization Investigates Executive Director’s Bonuses, Other Expenses
The board of directors for the Baltimore-based AIDS education and service group Health Education Resource Organization is investigating the organization's executive director over allegations that he gave himself thousands of dollars in bonuses and billed the organization for "questionable" travel expenses, the Baltimore Sun reports. In addition, HERO Deputy Director Indira Kotval was fired on Thursday after she outlined to the organization's board her concerns about HERO Executive Director Dr. Leonardo Ortega. In her five-page report, Kotval wrote that she had been concerned about Ortega's frequent absences over the past six months. When Ortega's assistant quit and outlined her own concerns about him, Kotval examined organization records and discovered that Ortega had paid a personal trainer with funds from the organization and listed the expenses under the heading "community relations." He also had awarded himself bonuses of "$1,000, $2,000 and even $3,000" between November 2003 and January 2004, when the organization was having a "fiscal crisis." Kotval said she also saw checks for $500 to $650 in per diem charges for food and travel, some of which were written during times when Ortega was not on business for HERO.
Carlton Smith, president of HERO's 20-member board, said that the board "will make sure all questions are completely answered so that the public's faith in HERO is maintained." Board member Lou Curran said that the board is facing "serious personnel issues" and "is absolutely intent upon persevering until any crisis is abated and all issues have been resolved to everybody's satisfaction." Ortega and Kotval said that they could not comment on the investigation, according to the Sun. Kotval said she was given "no reason" why she was dismissed, according to the Sun (Shatzkin, Baltimore Sun, 3/20).