About $2000 in donations were misappropriated by Beverly Erickson, the former Treasurer of UNSCREWED in the fall of 2007, and the organization has been struggling to recover ever since.
President Tom Stillwell explains, “when UNSCREWED was begun, it was a spontaneous, ad hoc organization, with everybody scrambling to get things rolling quickly so as to aid artists in need as soon as possible. Because of the urgency, we didn’t institute proper precautions immediately. Bev set up a checking account in her own name because we didn’t have a business name or incorporation papers until some time later and couldn’t open an account in the company name. We trusted her because she had been a longtime member of Comic Book Resources under the name ‘PaperGirl’, had served as a Moderator on the site, and was well-known and highly regarded by all involved.”
In October of 2007, UNSCREWED was informed by an artist that a Paypal transfer sent to him had been canceled. Other payments were found to have also been canceled. Upon further investigation, it was discovered that the organization’s checking account had been closed around the same time that Erickson had relocated from Florida to Alabama. Attempts to contact her went unanswered for over a month.
When Erickson was finally contacted, she explained that she had made “an honest mistake” and had accidentally used the wrong checkbook to pay some bills; by the time she discovered the error, she was in dire financial condition and could not pay the money back. She promised to send a small amount out of each paycheck until the debt was paid. No payments were ever received, and she has subsequently changed her phone number; attempts to contact her by letter, email and through family members have been unsuccessful.
“Legally, there was nothing we could do; the donations were sent to her Paypal account and deposited into a checking account in her name, with our consent,” Stillwell stated. With no other recourse, Stillwell began paying back the missing funds out of his own pocket., as well as replacing the canceled transactions, again at his own expense.
The organization’s leadership decided that it would be best for the group to absorb the loss and move on rather than spend a lot more time and money trying to recover the lost funds and harm UNSCREWED’s reputation in the process. Work has proceeded on the comic anthology the organization is publishing, and some artists have been assisted with filing claims against non-paying publishers. Despite the financial blow to the organization, no request for assistance has been denied. The situation has not affected UNSCREWED’s work.
But recently, when a disgruntled former acquaintance of Ms. Erickson with knowledge of the situation had begun threatening to expose the story, it was decided to go public.
“All we can do is honestly say what happened and accept responsibility for the errors we made in the past,” Stillwell said, “we’ve addressed those errors so they can’t happen again; the bank and Paypal accounts are in the organization’s name, the new Treasurer, Brian Crowley, lives nearby, and notifications of all account transactions are sent from the bank to multiple board members on a daily basis. Beyond that, all we can do is continue to replace the stolen funds and try to keep the organization going; it’s too important to just let it collapse.”