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Investigation pending into Southeastern Seminary finances_11005

Posted: 12/24/04

Investigation pending into Southeastern Seminary finances

By Steve DeVane

North Carolina Biblical Recorder

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (ABP)—The Wake County District Attorney has asked the State Bureau of Investigation in North Carolina to look into finances at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Colon Willoughby, the district attorney, said he has not received a report from the State Bureau of Investigation.

"We asked for some preliminary information to try and determine if an investigation is warranted," he said.

Bureau spokesperson Noelle Talley said Willoughby asked her agency to conduct interviews and provide him with information. She did not know the current status of the inquiry, but said no formal investigation is underway. Jerry Higgins, director of public relations for Southeastern, said the school had no comment.

C. B. Scott, a former director of special projects at Southeastern, said he was interviewed by a bureau agent in November. The agent told him that he could expect to be interviewed more thoroughly later.

Scott said the agent's questions focused on a car given in 2003 to an aide of former seminary president Paige Patterson. Scott was one of two seminary whistleblowers who brought the potentially illegal transaction to the attention of school officials and was later fired.

The seminary initially considered the six-month-old car a gift but later received a $6,500 check from the aide's father-in-law to pay for the vehicle. The check was marked as "unrestricted" and a tax-deductible receipt was issued, which experts say is a violation of tax laws. The seminary said it later corrected the "mistake," sending the father-in-law a letter saying the money was not tax deductible and sending the aide an IRS form stating that a portion of the car's value should be treated as income.

Scott said the bureau agent interviewed his wife, Karen, in mid-December. Karen Scott served as human resources and payroll manager for Southeastern and is now an accountant for Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, Pa.

C. B. Scott, who was fired by Southeastern in March allegedly for reasons unrelated to the car, is now director of development for the Middle Creek Bible Conference near Gettysburg, Pa.

Southeastern officials asked auditors to take a closer look at the seminary's financial procedures, in part due to the controversy surrounding the car. Auditors made "a number of constructive suggestions for improvements" to financial procedures but did not adjust their "unqualified opinion" of the school's finances, the seminary said.



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