A Minnesota professor who launched a fundraising campaign to reduce student daytime debt on behalf of a black restaurant worker who was killed by police in 2016 cannot account for $ 120,000, according to the state attorney general.
Pamela Fergus' "Philando feeds Children" is making an effort to donate only $ 80,000 to Saint Paul Public Schools with the aim of reducing daytime student debt, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said Thursday. The balance, more than $ 120,000, was not available, and Fergus was not cooperating with investigators investigating the missing money, Ellison said.
Fergus is now facing a public enforcement action from Ellison's office for breach of trust, fraudulent solicitations for donations, failure to keep proper records as an aid organization and failure to register at the Attorney General's office, Ellison said.
Fergus, a former member of the public at Metropolitan State University, co-sponsored a fundraising campaign into the psychology section: "Introduction to Diversity and Ethics in Psychology," Audrey Bergengren, a spokeswoman for the college, told NBC News on Friday. The adjunct faculty is retained on a semester basis, and Fergus has not worked there since May 7, Bergengren said.
College officials heard Ellison's case against Fergus on Thursday and are investigating, according to Bergengren.
"We expect and want our unit, staff and students to behave in an honest, ethical manner and to comply with the law," Bergengren said in a statement. "We offer our deepest condolences to Valerie Castile, the mother of Philando Castile, for her unprecedented grief over the loss of her son. Philando Castile's generosity and care for JJ Hill students is an example of community involvement in our university."
Valerie Castile joined Ellison at a press conference on Thursday. Ellison, who called him a "friend" and a "hero," said prosecutors in his office who were tipped off by Castile more than a year ago and began looking into Fergus' fundraising program.
Castile said he was involved in what he thought was an official grant, which was supposed to last only one semester, but continued throughout the year. When Castile approached Fergus to request a review of his records, Fergus refused, Castile said.
"It's a pity we have to get to this level," he said. "When I asked him about the records and he refused to give them to me, I was left with no choice," Castile said, adding that he went to his lawyer to try to get Fergus' financial records.
"I felt disrespected, in pain. I didn't know what to do. ... I want to apologize to everyone who donated to help pay the rest of the money," Castile said.
Fergus is employed at another Minnesota tertiary institution. Fergus has been a full-time psychiatrist at Inver Hills Community College. He was laid to rest on Friday, a community college spokesman said.
Fergus did not respond to numerous calls and emails.
Fergus has collected at least $ 200,774 deposited into his self-assessment account between September 2017 and May 2018, Ellison said.
“Philando Castile was very concerned about the children he was using, and the children loved him too. Raising money that is supposed to help those children, and not doing so, is an insult to Philando's legacy and to all who loved him, ”Ellison said in a statement.
Castile, 32, was working as a primary school when he was killed by a police officer in Minnesota during a car park in July 2016.
At a press conference on Thursday, Ellison added that Castile had a close relationship with elementary school children where he worked.
"Philando Castile was very concerned about the children he served. And the kids loved Mr. Phil at the same time. He was really a hero in that dining room," Ellison said.
Castile was known for digging into his wallet for children whose families could not afford to buy lunch while working as a food manager in J. Hill Montessori Magnet School.
As she did for Valerie Castile, Ellison said, Fergus refused to answer questions when pressured by his office.
In 2020, Ellison said his office had filed a petition to investigate the fundraiser, and Fergus asked him to grant his "fifth amendment against self-discipline and he refused to give evidence of what happened to the lost money."
Fergus' goal for the charity was to raise $ 5,000, Ellison said. Instead, $ 80,036 was donated to public schools. Fergus, however, kept the web page of the fundraiser active, and donations continued to flow into his audit account after the end of the 2017 season, Ellison said.