Suspicious Financial Dealings and Sexual Abuse at Christian Camp

UPDATE: Response to Kanakuk Ministries Demand Letter to MinistryWatch

An attorney for Kanakuk Ministries has sent a letter to MinistryWatch demanding three articles be retracted. The demand letter provided a list of article statements which Kanakuk’s attorney claims are factually incorrect. Trinity Foundation would like to address one of the key claims: total compensation for White family members is “intentionally inflated.” (MinistryWatch response  to demand letter is posted online.)

Demand letter claim:

“In addition, you incorrectly calculated the compensation.  In 2017, Mr. White received $41,909 in total compensation.  That number includes Mr. White’s $36,844 salary.  Similarly, Mrs. White received $142,738 in total compensation.  The total compensation included her $39,864 salary.  You intentionally inflated the figures to support your false narrative.”

Trinity Foundation response:

Kanakuk Ministries president Joe White received more compensation than is reported in the demand letter. The compensation figures in this dispute are from page 7 (seen below) and page 57 of the Kanakuk Ministries Form 990 for the fiscal year ending August 31, 2018.

Page 7 reports that Joe White received $36,844 from Kanakuk Ministries and an additional $8,094 from Kanakuk Ministries or a related organization.

$36,844 + $8,094 = $44,938

Page 7 also reports that Debbie-Jo White received $39,864 in compensation from Kanakuk Ministries and $75,144 from Kanakuk Ministries or a related organization.

$39,864 + $75,144 = $115,008

This amount is $27,730 less than the compensation amount reported in the demand letter. Why was the additional $27,730 not reported on page 7?

Because the compensation on page 7 and page 57 do NOT match, Trinity Foundation concluded the compensation reported on page 57 was additional compensation not paid by Kanakuk Ministries, but instead compensation paid to the Whites from their personally-owned companies. In fact, the compensation on page 57 follows the reporting of rent payments from Kanakuk Ministries paid to companies owned by the Whites.

MinistryWatch recently reported, “An analysis of the financial statements by MinistryWatch, with the assistance of the Dallas-based Trinity Foundation, reveals what the Trinity Foundation calls a ‘suspicious’ pattern of self-dealing between Kanakuk and founder ‘Coach’ Joe White and his family.

Kanakuk Ministries is one of the largest Christian camps in the United States.  Each summer, it serves more than 20,000 children from around the country.  Its fiscal year 2017 revenue topped $35-million.”

Self-dealing occurs when non-profit executives operate a for-profit company which does business with the non-profit organization. This is not illegal unless the for-profit company excessively profits off the non-profit entity.

Self-dealing may represent a conflict of interest. Independent board members should carefully vet such transactions and only approve them if the costs are based on competitive, fair market prices, which Kanakuk Ministries claims to have done.

Kanakuk Ministries rented property from Kukorp LLC and K-Land One LLC of which both are owned by White family members. Kanakuk Ministries also provided a $310,000 loan to Kukorp.

The MinistryWatch investigation revealed, “If you add up all these numbers, Kanakuk Ministries paid the Whites, or entities wholly owned by the Whites, $572,132 in 2017.”

MinistryWatch has published two articles concerning sex crimes allegedly committed at Kanakuk Ministries.

* Website Documenting History of Sexual Abuse at Kanakuk Kamps Goes Live

* Knew of Abuser’s Behavior At Least 6 Years Before Finally Firing Him

MinistryWatch reported, “A civil complaint alleges that there were at least 57 victims, but the prosecutor in his case estimates that the real number could be in the ‘hundreds.'”

Kanakuk Ministries was not on our radar until Warren Cole Smith, president of MinistryWatch reached out with questions. In fact, that is how many of our investigations begin: A journalist, concerned donor, church member or employee calls or emails us with questions or tips.

According to an Association of Certified Fraud Examiners 2020 report, “43% of occupational frauds were detected by a tip.”

If you have a question or inside information about a ministry or church, please share it with us. We are especially interested in tips about fraud (which involves deception – and we are not accusing Kanakuk Ministries of fraud), theft, abusive behavior or excess (such as extravagant spending on homes, vehicles, clothing and private jets).

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