The Bethesda-based American Kidney Fund, which has filed a lawsuit alleging that its former director "wrongfully diverted" more than $1.4 million from the fund, is not in compliance with laws in Maryland and four other states because it has not filed its required 1984 financial statement, officials said yesterday.
"If they solicit in Maryland, they're required to submit a statement," said Jeanne O'Neill, executive assistant to the Maryland secretary of state. "I don't have any financial information from this group, and it's November; it should have been here in June."
O'Neill said the fund, a small nonprofit organization that provides emergency financial aid to kidney patients and finances education and research projects, was granted several extensions after saying its audit was incomplete. She said the state had received a letter from the group on Aug. 30, citing "a lot of unusual problems this particular year."
O'Neill said the letter remained unanswered because of a change in state law about the reporting requirement and computer problems in her office. But she said yesterday that a letter will be forthcoming and the kidney fund will be given five days to submit its financial report or be prohibited from soliciting funds in the state.
"As far as we know, we had an extension with Maryland," said Wayne A. Gray, executive director of the kidney fund. Gray said the kidney fund's financial statement was completed in September, but it contained a disclaimer from Arthur Andersen & Co. about the alleged misappropriation.
Gray said that in March the board confronted its executive director, Ellen Kay Hatch, 44, with the alleged misappropriation and that it fired her in May after an audit by Arthur Andersen. Hatch was found dead with a gunshot wound to her chest on June 29 in a Jacuzzi in her Herndon home, according to Fairfax County police.
The kidney fund alleges in its lawsuit against the estate of Hatch, who had been executive director since 1974, that she diverted at least $1.4 million into three bank accounts she kept secret from the kidney fund.
Gray said the board of trustees, which was alerted by staff members in the spring that money had been misappropriated, has been attempting ever since to prepare an "assurance agreement" to submit with its financial statement to explain what is being done about the misappropriated funds to some of the 37 states where it solicits funds.
"If we went out and submitted this without some explanation, they wouldn't accept it anyhow," said Gray. "If we can get one state to accept our assurance agreement . . . then we can keep this fund viable."
Gray said that Connecticut, Minnesota, Michigan and Pennsylvania have told the kidney fund that it was not in compliance because it had not filed the proper forms, while others have granted extensions or do not have such requirements.
Gray said Hatch allegedly solicited donations that were sent to a Dulles Airport post office box and deposited in secret bank accounts for her own use.
The kidney fund -- not to be confused with the larger more research-oriented National Kidney Foundation -- has also sued Hatch's four daughters, claiming they "conspired with Hatch to defraud" the fund. The attorney for the daughters, Lawrence S. Hoffheimer, called the allegations "ludicrous."
When informed that he would have five days to submit the fund's financial report in Maryland, Gray said: "We'll be at their doorstep, and they'll have full disclosure. I would assume they're reasonable people and they won't take this isolated incident and shut us down."