August 5 ,2011
On June 22, 2010, The Mark Twain House & Museum discovered that a long term employee of the institution, the former controller, Ms. Donna Gregor, had been misappropriating funds for a number of years and shielding these misdeeds from detection by the auditors.
Ms. Gregor was terminated by the MTH&M that same day. Jeffrey Nichols, our Executive Director, notified me and I, in turn, notified the other Trustees. We immediately contacted law enforcement and notified the press. Following a review of the matter, we implemented additional controls to better safeguard our assets and put in place new financial reporting mechanisms. We contacted many of our donors and other supporters and are deeply thankful for their understanding and continuing support.
We hired a forensic auditing firm and shared its completed review with law enforcement.
We also filed an insurance claim in relation to the losses which resulted in a payment to the MTH&M of $500,000 which we received in October of 2010. This recovery was reported in the MTH&M’s IRS Form 990 and serves to restore all affected funds since 2008. MTH&M continues to explore other potential claims and sources of recovery for the $580,000 of unrecovered funds from earlier years. The total amount Ms. Gregor defrauded the MTH&M is approximately $1,080,000.
Concurrently with MTH&M’s efforts, law enforcement has been investigating this matter and we were advised of a guilty plea by Ms. Gregor today August 5th in the Federal Court in Bridgeport, Connecticut. We understand her plea includes admissions of wire fraud and tax evasion. We also understand her plea agreement includes restitution to MTH&M.
The Trustees and the staff were devastated by this event, particularly in light of its occurrence during a period when hundreds of supporters and other committed people worked so hard and selflessly to bring the Mark Twain House & Museum from a large structural deficit just a few years ago to a current modest operating surplus.
Despite the significant unrecovered losses from 2002 to 2007, we want to assure everyone that our current financial condition is sound and we recently received an unqualified opinion from our auditors.
Because of the heroic efforts of our staff, a record number of visitors, 71,500, came to the House in 2010 vs. 59,000 the year before. And, we hosted more than 50 successful events to make the institution a key tourism destination in Connecticut.
Our mission is to preserve the home where Twain wrote his most important works and, more importantly, to preserve his place as America’s greatest writer. We are more committed than ever to this mission.
The trustees have noted and are deeply appreciative of the fact that throughout this past painful year, Executive Director Jeff Nichols and his entire staff of full and part time employees and volunteers have kept their single focus on what is good for the institution. They succeeded despite enormous distraction and pain.
Also, I must also commend the Trustees who have stepped up and been a resolute and determined force throughout this ordeal. To a person, they all stayed and supported the institution with funds, guidance and support.
On behalf of the entire Mark Twain House & Museum family, we want to thank our supporters and donors for their understanding and support and we pledge to continue to make the institution stronger for many generations to come.