Saturday, July 26, 2008

'I will not wrong, cheat or defraud...': Internal Shrine report finds conflict of interest, ethics violations

The New York Times reported on Friday that a 23-page internal report issued by a committee formed by the joint boards of the Shriners of North America fraternal organization and the Shriners Hospitals for Children found that Bro. Ralph Semb, chairman of the Shriners Hospitals Board of Trustees, and Bro. Gene Bracewell, the Imperial Treasurer of the fraternal Shriner organization, violated both organizations' conflict of interest policies as well as their ethics codes and recommended that they be "reprimanded."

The committee's recommendation was ignored. No punitive action was taken against Semb or Bracewell, both of whom deny any wrongdoing.

Bro. Bernard J. Lemieux, a medical doctor, who headed the joint boards at the time the investigative panel was formed, defended the boards' decision not to punish Semb and Bracewell. He said in an email messages the boards had concluded no reprimand "was warranted or necessary."

The Shriners Hospital board controls an eight billion dollar ($8,000,000,000) endowment.

A fundraising program which operated from 1999 to 2003 netted $46.2 million. Of that amount, only $2.5 million made it to the hospitals.

Investigations as far back as the 1980's have shown that only two to 25 percent of all that spare change you toss into the buckets at intersections manned by fez-headed Masons makes it to the children's hospitals. It seems someone else is pocketing all that cash. Who could it be?

The interim report said that a "comprehensive continuing investigation" was needed. The boards of the Shrine and its hospitals, which share members, voted to disband the panel before it had finished its investigations.

When Bro. Mahlon Hessey, one of the members of the investigating committee, tried to present the committee's findings at the annual Shrine meeting last month in St. Louis, he was booed and heckled off the stage. Some Masons picked to be on the committee when it was formed refused to accept the appointment due to fear of reprisals by those being investigated.

Read the "Interim Report of the Special Investigative Committee of the Joint Boards of Shriners Hospitals for Children."

The collected works of Sandy Frost over the past two years helped lead to the recent article by NY Times reporter Stephanie Strom.

Image 1: Bernard J. Lemieux, immediate Past Potentate of the Shrine and past chairman of the board of trustees of the Shiners Hospitals

Image 2: Ralph Semb, chairman of the Shriners Hospitals Board of Trustees

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  1. sweet

    i will always turn a blind eye to embezzlement from crippled children funds, so help me god and keep me steadfast
    so mote it be

  2. Hey WS,

    What ever happened to "Will not speak evil of a Brothers name, nor permit it to be done so, if in my power to prevent."

    If your gonna quote the Obs, be sure you are following all of them yourself dear Brother.

  3. Oh but what about the TRUTH Peterson???? Which Obligation obligates you and your Mainstream Masonic buddy's to remain silent when the law is broken??

    Oh, by the way how much is Brent Morris paying to stir the pot again??

  4. Art Peterson writes:

    "Will not speak evil of a Brothers name, nor permit it to be done so, if in my power to prevent."

    Wow! Is that REALLY a tie somewhere?

    Here, it's: "Will not speak evil of a WORTHY Master Mason, behind his back, nor before his face, but will uphold him in his fallen fortunes, whisper good council in his ear, and apprise him of all approaching danger, if within my power so to do."

    Are you sure you don't have your tie above confused with: "Will not wrong, cheat, or defraud a lodge of Master Masons, or a brother of this degree, out of the value of anything knowingly, nor will I suffer it done, if within my power to prevent?"

    It's hard for me to believe the ties could be so different.

    Of course, it's also hard for me to believe that Masons who divert funds intended to help crippled children, and those who cover it up, can somehow be considered "worthy," but what do I know?

    -- Diogenes

  5. Bro. Peterson,

    Reporting news and reporting what the investigating brethren wrote in their report hardly counts as "speaking evil."

    The Burning Taper will continue to report and editorialize on Masonic and other matters, with or without your blessing.

  6. "The Burning Taper will continue to report and editorialize on Masonic and other matters, with or without your blessing."

    Wouldn't expect it any other way Doc. Just don't act so surprised that you aren't welcome in very many lodges.

  7. Lodges of Mainstream Masons who are intolerant, bigoted, racist, self-righteous, the end all authority on all Masonic matters, and the ones who points their finger with indignation at others, and more importantly slamming their doors on Masons all in the name of regularity which only came into the American jurisdictions in the 1920's. You think any of us desires to set in your Mainstream Lodges?? NOT! So much for your ancient landmarks peter pan..

  8. Let's hope that in the near future the best of humanity will rise to the top to outshine the unworthy.

  9. Could you guys imagine if the same story had broke about the Make-A-Wish Foundation?

  10. WS,

    Br. Peterson may say you will not be welcome in many lodges, but I have a seat waiting for you in mine Bro. Trust me... Just come visit and I'll show you my version of hospitality. Not to mention a nice seat in my lodge with some friendly faces.

  11. Something we should all glean from this is the importance of accountability and transparency in all levels and activities of our fellowship, from the Blue Lodge on. Too many of us plead that amateurs aren't expected to be good at accounting. T'ain't so. We must choose our financial officers from people who have experience and expertise in these areas.

    We have to demand the same level of accountability in Lodge as in our businesses, governments, and taxes. We can't let people inherit these chairs because of longevity or other offices held. Then we have to review their activities regularly to help them do the job right.

    We, as an organization under constant scrutiny and criticism can't afford this kind of publicity; the children in the Shrine hospitals can't afford to be hurt either by our own people messing with them, or by the news papers tearing down the institutions.

  12. Thank you, Bro. Dean, for your invitation and promised hospitality. I would be honored to visit in your lodge.

    — W.S.

  13. I can't believe you guys would fight over this. Come on. Two of the Shrine's top guys were caught with their hand in the cookie jar and then are so slick that they convinced the general membership to re-elect them.
    I spent the day doing research on Vantage and the trouble they had with the feds. A few days after they paid a $4.5 million fine in November, 2003, the postal service changed their laws so a commercial fund raiser could, indeed, use the non profit postage rate, which is 60% of standard mail.
    A congressional sub-committee is currently revisiting the law in cooperation with the postal service and is focusing on a questionable vet's charity.
    Congressman Waxman opposed the 2003 changes to the "cooperative mailing" law. If he or any of his committee reads the Shriner Interim Report, I'm sure that Vantage and the Shriners will be on that committee's radar.
    In the mean time, if "they" manage to get rid of McGonigal and the Shriners enter into contracts with Vantage or any other direct marketing or fundraising affilate, it will look very very suspicious.

  14. I agree with Sandy's comment above. Why is this even a debate? These guys should have been run out on a rail at even the appearance of impropriety. Despite their good works, the Shrine is quickly becoming a festering cancer on our Craft. The Grand Lodges need to excise this blight before it further taints the good name of our institution. Of course, they may not have noticed, what with how busy they have been witch hunting and expelling Brothers without trials...And for the record, Widow's Son, you would be welcome in my Lodge as well.

  15. Correct me if I'm wrong but at the root of all this... I don't think Br. Peterson was suggesting we don't reprimand our brothers for this and remove them. I think he was just frowning on doing it in the public eye. Again, please correct me if I'm wrong! I don't think anyone supports illegal activity, just whether we deal with it behind closed doors or publically.
    And furthermore, I agree that we should be putting people in these positions with qualified background, to do the job right.

  16. I must drag out one of my favorite quotes again for this one:

    ""All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent." ~Thomas Jefferson"

    Sandy Frost has done excellent incisive work exposing this grave misuse of the public trust and I commend her for her efforts.

    This falls far beyond the scope of not speaking ill of a brother, we as decent human beings should be outraged at such gross injustice being perpetrated by a few unscrupulous men. Men who then try to hide the dirty laundry behind a mask of a legitimate respected organization!

    This kind of behavior harms us all and to not speak out gives the appearance of collusion.

  17. As Prexy stated, It really is time that Masonry severs it's relationship with the Shrine. If the Shrine were open to non-Masons as well that would be one thing. By requiring Masonic status to become a member, the Shrine appears to the world as a Masonic organization which it is not. Outside of the Temple there are ample oppotunities for Masons to enjoy frivolous activities, engage in worthwhile charities, party, etc,. Freemasonry doesn't need a "Playground"

  18. "As Prexy stated, It really is time that Masonry severs it's relationship with the Shrine."

    Sounds good to me. Until it shapes up and resembles something like I see in many good, Masonic Shriners, there's not much chance of me joining

  19. Dear W.S., These are simply cheap shots against Mainstream Masonry. While you might have a dues card you are far from being a Mason. This is exactly the reason you hide your name and Masonic Affiliation.

    Manny Blanco,PM
    Moreno Valley Masonic Lodge # 804
    Moreno Valley, CA
    Grand Lodge of California

  20. Bro. Blanco,

    Are you going to post the same broken record to the comments section of every article on The Taper? Why don't you go ahead and read all 900-plus articles and then write one big "W.S. sucks" comment?

    Why do you think every time I point out a news story discussing corruption within Freemasonry I'm taking a "cheap shot"? Have you appointed yourself the New Apologist for All Things Masonic? As I said before, you are a pale imitation of Bro. Dunn, who at least could find more things to zing me about than the fact that my name isn't on this blog.

    I've never hidden my Masonic affiliation. You know damn well what lodge I am a member of. It's posted all over this site.

    You also damn well know my name.

    I have never said or done anything unfriendly or unmasonic to you, yet you've become the new Pest of the Month here. If you don't like what I write, don't read it. Harping on the nondisclosure of my name on this blog while ignoring the fact that this article was about accusations of financial improprieties by Shriners against Shriners shows that you seriously must have a screw loose, if you can justify to yourself that the report the Committee wrote was ignored by the very leaders who ordered it to be written.

    As Slartibartfast in HHGTTG said, "My name is unimportant." I speak for every Mason, mainstream or not, who has been shocked, saddened and/or disgusted by the acts of brother Masons in the name of Freemasonry.

    I don't dislike Masonry; I love it, or I would not write about it.

    What I don't like, besides the rampant corruption and prayers to Jesus in a tyled lodge, is self-righteous Masons like you who continually try to pluck the speck from my eye while ignoring the freakin' logs in the eyes of certain Masonic leaders.

    — W.S.

  21. Just one word brothers "worthy". Any worhty man can be a brother; but all brothers aren't worthy.


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