Housing nonprofit, leader part ways

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By BRIAN WALKER

Staff Writers

COEUR d’ALENE — Lori Isenberg, who led a local housing nonprofit for nearly a decade, is no longer employed with the organization that has now ordered an internal financial audit in search of accounting irregularities.

North Idaho Housing Coalition’s office is closed in the meantime, said Kerri Thoreson, president of the coalition’s board.

In response to an inquiry from The Press, Thoreson said Isenberg hasn’t led the nonprofit since late January.

"Since it’s a personnel issue, I can’t give you anything more other than she’s no longer employed by the North Idaho Housing Coalition," Thoreson said Monday.

When asked if there's suspicion of embezzlement, Thoreson said she could neither confirm nor deny that.

"Step 1 is the internal financial audit to see where we are and what the path should be," she said, adding that a law enforcement investigation is a possibility that could result from the internal audit.

Thoreson declined to say whether Isenberg was fired or resigned. She also declined to comment on her time with the nonprofit.

Messages left with Isenberg on Monday afternoon were not returned.

NIHC is an Idaho Housing Finance Association-approved nonprofit dedicated to increasing access to affordable homes for low- to moderate-income individuals and families and assisting qualified buyers to buy a home.

The IHFA received federal funding for programs such as the Neighborhood Stablization Program. Idaho received a total allocation of $21.6 million under the 2008 Housing & Economic Recovery Act. Idaho Housing and Finance Association (IHFA) is the designated administrator of the NSP program.

"We partner with IDHFA on the loaning of money to new homebuyers, so we know we have a responsibility when dealing with public funds," Thoreson said.

Thoreson said the internal audit will be done in about 30 days.

"We want that to be completed to see if any further action is needed," she said.

NIHC has purchased, rehabilitated and sold more than 130 area homes since it was founded in 2009.

Amy Evans, board vice president, said Isenberg was previously placed on administrative leave before ties were permanently severed.

In an unrelated matter, a part-time office assistant with the coalition is no longer employed at the nonprofit's office in the lower level of the STCU building on Front Avenue in Coeur d’Alene.

"As soon as we ceased operation on a daily basis, then that position was eliminated," Thoreson said. "It made no sense to have an office assistant when there is no one there to assist. We made the decision to not stop the operation but to close the office for an indeterminate amount of time."

Thoreson said the coalition distributed about $40,000 to local housing-related nonprofits in December with excess revenue it had. The previous year about $20,000 was given.

"We don’t expect operations to be changed at all as far as what we are able to do," Thoreson said.

Thoreson said she expects a new director will be named in about two or three months after the direction of the nonprofit is re-evaluated. An official search has not started.

"We hope that the right person exists in this area," she said.

Members of the executive board are handling administrative matters in the interim.

"It’s business as usual, but the three of us maintaining operations is definitely short term," she said, adding that she, Evans and treasurer Kevin Vedder are coordinating the effort. "It’s a wonderful organization. We all are hugely committed to this not creating an interruption in what we do."

•••

Staff Writer Marc Stewart contributed to this report.

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