Growing Food Forward board seeks criminal probe |

Growing Food Forward board seeks criminal probe

Ryan Hoffman
Kim Wille
Aspen Times |

The Growing Food Forward board of directors has asked for a criminal investigation into possible misuse of financial resources by its suspended executive director, Kim Doyle Wille.

Anita Sherman, Growing Food Forward vice president, disclosed the board’s request last weekend in a heated exchange on the Facebook page “Keep Kim Growing Forward,” a page supporting Wille that was created shortly after her recent suspension.

“Additionally, it’s generally frowned upon practice for executive directors to deposit grant checks into accounts not authorized by the board, or write checks to themselves for cash,” Sherman wrote before stating that the board sent its concerns to “authorities for criminal investigation.”

Sherman also criticized Wille’s record keeping and questioned some of the past successes — which are still listed on the organization’s website — that Wille reported.

“Where are those 102 gardens?” Sherman asked. “Where is proof that (Growing Food Forward) actually grew and donated 8,000 (pounds) of food? How many families received food? Where are the receipts for $10,000 of dirt she supposedly purchased, even though vendors claimed it was donated.”

Timothy Stolley, Growing Food Forward treasurer, confirmed that the board asked the 9th District Attorney’s Office to investigate the concerns that Sherman — who could not be reached for comment Wednesday — stated on Facebook. The board is scheduled to meet today, Stolley said, adding that it was waiting for “feedback” from the district attorney before disclosing any further information, Stolley added.

District Attorney Sherry Caloia did not respond to an email and phone message Wednesday asking if her office was investigating the matter.

Numerous phone calls to Wille went unanswered and her voicemail inbox was full. Previously, Wille said she was shocked by the board’s decision, adding that she made numerous unsuccessful attempts to contact the board after she was suspended.

In her capacity representing Growing Food Forward, Wille has received extensive media coverage, including in the Post Independent. Her suspension struck a chord with some in the community, leading to the creation of the “Keep Kim Growing Forward” Facebook page.

The organization was recently awarded $5,000 from LiveWell Garfield County to cover capital expenses for gardens and countywide workshops. It has strong affiliations in the Roaring Fork and Colorado river valleys. With volunteer help, it distributes non-GMO heirloom seeds, tends numerous gardens, and delivers food to clients, pantries and distribution points. It has seed libraries at the Garfield County libraries and offers a range of classes.

Dana Wood, Garfield County LiveWell director, said the applications were screened but the grant committee had no indication of troubles at Growing Food Forward.

As executive director, Wille was compensated $30,000 in the organization’s first year as an official nonprofit corporation, according to the organization’s application for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. The application was approved in November 2014.

Wille previously said that her pay as executive director was her only source of income, and she was unsure how she would pay for gas and other expenses beca––use her suspension is unpaid.

If true, this would not be Wille’s first encounter with financial issues. She created a campaign on the website in 2012 to raise money for housing costs and late fees. She succeeded in raising $2,095, preventing her eviction, according to the website.

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