FBI taking over Detroit Riverfront Conservancy CFO financial investigation

Posted at 12:43 PM, May 21, 2024

The Federal Bureau of Investigation will take over the financial investigation into the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, according to the Board Chair Matt Cullen.

Last week, the Riverfront Conservancy announced that its CFO, William Smith, was put on leave amid a financial investigation.

Cullen said last week that he “became concerned about the accuracy of management reports and financial statements that had been provided to the Board of the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy.”

The Honigman Law Firm was brought out to investigate and then brought evidence of financial wrongdoing by the CFO to Michigan State Police and requested a criminal investigation.

According to the statement by Cullen, MSP said the investigation was too complex and they have turned over the investigation to the FBI.

"We are cooperating with authorities and are determined to do whatever it takes to get to the bottom of this matter," Cullen said in a statement.

“My question is why would you want to take from Detroit?” asked Detroiter Tiffany Cook, who says she loves the riverfront.

I dug deeper into the public disclosures of their finances. Figures show $25 million in revenue last year, more than $15 million in expenses and $175 million in total assets.

“They’re going to involve a deep dive into the financial network of the non-profit or business. There are business records and in this case required annual reporting to the state and federal government,” says retired FBI Asst. Director Dan Roberts.

He says money could have left the state, and agents are already likely pouring through records.

Consultant Angela Rogensus also adds: “It erodes public trust in those organizations, but it also reduces the ability of those organizations to operate with the flexibility that they need.”

We also requested an interview with the non-profit, but are still waiting to hear back. Roberts tells me the IRS will likely work closely with FBI moving forward.

Smith will remain on unpaid leave, and the Riverfront Conservancy has hired Quatrro Business Support Solutions to provide oversight of the conservancy's day-to-day accounting and finance functions.

“As soon as we can, the Conservancy will share with the public and its many stakeholders exactly what happened, how it happened, and our full plans for moving forward," Cullen said.

According to Cullen, the project is still moving ahead, and he said they will be stronger because of what they learn.