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Ennis charity board resigns

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STAFF REPORT
The Ellis County Press
ENNIS - Board members of a Christmas charity resigned last week amid an Ennis Daily News article over its finances, but the director said much of the factual information was omitted.

Audrey Merritt, whose Chrystie's Kids organization helped needy families with presents and meals, said the EDN piece published bits and pieces of the facts.

Board members Sue Cote, Denise Treese and Frank Hegar, a former EDN reporter, resigned after they alleged Merritt could not produce lists of receipts detailing the organization's finances

'Until the EDN contacted me no one [emphasis hers] has asked to see receipts or the books,' said Merritt, who named the charity after her daughter, a victim of a hit-and-run committed by a former star football player for the Ennis Lions.

'They omitted that the board members stated that they had seen the receipts and [incorporation] papers after the meeting in September with the EDN and were satisfied with them.'

The article, written by Publisher Ben Brooks, reported that 'members interviewed…said they had never been able to examine or audit the financial records of the organization.'

The piece also reported on the overdraft fees Merritt's organization received at a local bank.

'Unless a board member was available to run errands for me I relied on my family to do them for me.

'That meant trips for supplies, to pick up toys, transport victims, to purchase items a family may needed and deliver them,' Meritt stated in a follow-up editorial.

'That meant trips for supplies; to pick up toys; transport victims; to purchase items a family may need and deliver them.

'The checks written to my family members were for the amount of $100 each. This was my ‘petty cash.' When the cash was spent it was replaced, with another $100.

'We have receipts for all ‘petty cash' except $48, for the year. The checks for ‘cash' were written to the bank and I did cash them.

The funds we got in were usually spoken for with a project we were doing at that time. As far as the bank account being overdrawn: There were several payments charged to the account from yellow pages [and] a travel agency that were not authorized by any board member and when they were paid it caused our checks to be returned and that's a check charge by the bank, as well as one to the company they were written to and you have to pay a check charge to the company.'

Denise Treese, one of the board members who resigned, said she was misquoted and bullied into thinking she would be attacked or smeared by the EDN if she did not resign.

'I talk to her [Merritt] daily and we're still good friends,' Treese said.

Board member Daryl Ray Spence, an Ellis County Sheriff investigator who recently was replaced as president of the Ellis County Sheriff's Association for questions surrounding that organization's finances also resigned, but Merritt said he resigned last year.

Roy Thompson, an Ennis resident who helped install a ramp for a wheelchair-bound child, said the charity might have ended, but the help won't.

'Anytime people needed help, she's [Merritt] always been there,' Thompson said. 'The article really fired me up [to continue helping].'

Dawn Bassett, whose son Thompson helped most, said she tried to get others to help, but Merritt's charity was the only one that produced results.

'Several people consented to [building it], but it didn't come through. We only had one income at the time, but [Merritt] went and raised the money for the baby formula and repairing the ramp.'

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