UPDATE: Sacred Paths Center to Reopen

Sacred Paths Center sparked speculation yesterday when they abruptly announced that the the center was closing “indefinitely” and would be conducting an internal and external audit.  Today, SPC Executive Director Teisha Magee, announced that the center would reopen Monday, August 8th.

We sincerely apologize for the confusion caused by our sudden closing. We want to thank Keys of Paradise for making their space available for the events that we inconvenienced this week. – Statement from Executive Director Teisha Magee

Magee also wanted to reassure people who had scheduled events at the  center between now and the reopening on Monday that the space they reserved is  available to them as promised previously.

The sudden announcement of indefinite closure, coming just a day after announcing the center had surpassed its fundraising goals to keep their doors open, caused some Pagans to speculate, “If it turns out people’s sympathy was being played to pay someone’s gambling debts, we better see more than an internal audit,” Kenneth commented on The Wild Hunt.  Rumors were further fueled by the resignations of two unnamed board members.

Magee said the reason for the closing was “to catch up on some neglected organizational items” and to do a physical inventory of the store.  Another task the SPC board is focusing on includes restructuring their organizational tools.

Sacred Paths Center put out this comment on their facebook page in response to a question:

   Sorry, we’ve realized that the word “audit” has been misconstrued. This is not an IRS-style audit, this is annual audit that all non-profits must do to show that they’ve used the donations they’ve received properly. This isn’t something being forced on the center, this is something the center is doing to make sure our Form 990s and other documentation meet the government’s standards for “best practices”. Because most of our organization is unfamiliar with these forms, we felt getting outside advice was appropriate.

An unnamed source disputes SPC’s claim that this is a routine audit.  They say that while the SPC board is acting in good faith and sincerely wants to resolve the issue, the temporary closure and audit were forced on the center by a SPC member.  “The member basically came in and said ‘you must do this or I’ll take certain steps’ – implying that they would report the center to some state authority.  The source says the board was aware of irregularities in the center’s books and planned to look into the issue, but the demand by the anonymous center member forced quicker action.

The source says it unclear if the alleged possible problems with the bookkeeping are  from sloppy record keeping, mismanagement, or rise to an actionable item under Minnesota law.  They noted that the member who demanded the audit firmly believes in the center,  still fully supports it, and says it is a good investment for the community.

SPC plans to publish a breakdown of the success of their Change and Grow campaign on Monday, August 8th. The full statement from Sacred Paths Center is reprinted below.

From The Executive Director:

Dear supporter of the Center,
The Center will reopen for all normal business on Monday, August 8.
We sincerely apologize for the confusion caused by our sudden closing. We want to thank Keys of Paradise for making their space available for the events that we inconvenienced this week. We are reaching out to the coordinators for all events scheduled at the center between now and the reopening on Monday to assure them that the space they reserved will be available to them as promised previously. If you have something scheduled at the center this weekend you will have space.


The reason for closing this week is simply to catch up on some neglected organizational items. 

We need to do a physical inventory of the store, clean up our book keeping and filing systems, and we are restructuring our organizational tools to better serve our members and the community.

These projects become very difficult when being done amongst the hustle and bustle of the normal Center functions.

We will publish a breakdown of the success of our Change and Grow campaign. We received great response from the community and we would like to show you where your hard earned donations served the center. We will be posting an accounting on the website for anyone to view. We appreciate the communities support and want you to know we how much we value your contributions. Our commitment to you is that we will continue to evaluate our expenses, making sure we are doing the most with your contributions each month.

We will also be working to create a way for the community to provide us with feedback. We do our best every moment to provide you with a community center that welcomes everyone. If we fail to do that in some way, we want to know. This way we can improve. This will also be a way for you to show us what you want to see at the center, services you’d appreciate or pay a compliment to our wonderful volunteer staff.

This is the pioneering Pagan community center in the country and our sole mission is to be the best stewards of that. We are working to respond to you, our community and provide the kind of center that will be a model for Pagans nationwide. We don’t promise perfection, we aren’t always going to do the right thing; but our commitment to you is that will put our best foot forward every day. We will own any mistakes and be better for them; and we will do our level best to provide a welcoming, sacred, neutral space for everyone in our community to use in their own path to the divine.

Thank you to our community and also to our extraordinary staff of volunteers who have stepped up to ensure our Change and Grow campaign was a success. Without their hard work none of the events would have be possible.

Teisha Magee,
Executive Director

17 thoughts on “UPDATE: Sacred Paths Center to Reopen

    • cjstone says:

      I hear SPC is looking at Justin Timberlake for the lead.

      All seriousness aside, what’s the right way to handle finding out you made mistakes? Cover them up, or talk about them in the open? SPC is a corporation operated in the public interest. Is it in the public interest to spackle over everything, or should they say what the problems are and fix them? Should they take the money and run, or should they come out and say what has to be said? And if people think it looks like a dog and pony show, should SPC stop leveling with people, or should they keep leveling and expect people to get a grip and see what’s really going on?

      • Star Foster says:

        They need to demonstrate a level of professionalism and competency in they way they communicate. Being “on the level” with the public doesn’t mean flashing sirens and wringing hands every week.

  1. doomdiva says:

    Well that’s got to be a huge relief for your community and for everyone who was charitable. Why didn’t they just come out and say that’s what they were doing, stating they intended to reopen shortly, instead of drawing up so much concern? I guess it should be chalked up to being a lesson learned for all.

    • Ciaran Benson says:

      That is an excellent question doomdiva.

      Since many people in governance at the Center are still unfamiliar with social media and the Center has a board that is pretty much micromanaging every detail of what is happening (but at the same time are only typically meeting for 2 hours once a month) we often can sound a LOT like everything’s been squeezed through the wrong end of a committee.

      This is a perfect example of a committee response. The board spent the better part of a day talking about how to frame the original “indefinitely” message. It not only had complete review and dozens of emails suggesting minute word changes, in the end had the most completely tracked and carefully worded approval we’ve ever had for any public statement that has been made by the Center.

      Now you see what that kind of over-thinking something gets you.

      Instead of trying to craft the perfect message, issuing it, and then ignoring it for a week, going forward we’re going to try to be willing to do the RIGHT thing even if we might end up doing it badly, and then ride the wave that results – responding to questions and trying to be available.

      In their own defense, some of the board are absolutely opposed to this kind of approach. Not because they’re hiding something but just because of their own internal model of how they think non-profits should operate. Eventually, their sub-committee might craft and frame a minority response. I am sure it will be a shining example of committee-crafted art, and I look forward to seeing it.

  2. Mark Digatono says:

    An unnamed source also states that the Lunar Landing was faked and that Elvis and Big Foot are kept in an Alien Zoo as a Breeding pair for human kind……………….
    The facts are that the Audit needed to happen, and that No Governmental agency is involved in that process. This is an Internal Audit and the Board intends to make those findings public when it has time to review those findings.
    Do you want my opinion? I am not at liberty to express it, I respect the work the Board has done to this point, my opinion is not relevant to the facts.

    • Mark Digatono says:

      Gods I hope I don’t have the same unnamed source as the Publishers of this article…..

    • Ciaran Benson says:

      Next week on MythBusters: The Sacred Paths Center!

      We know they can’t do the right thing right – can they do the wrong thing right either? Do they actually have the coordination and initiative it would take to intentionally commit fraud?

      Let’s find out!

  3. Jhink says:

    The SPC’s credibility for me is gone at this point. Communication is vitally important and to “write off” how they handled the closing and the wording of their initial public statement is, I believe, a mistake. Then, for them to come forth and say “oh, it’s just routine” and believe that at face value is a bigger mistake.

    The mere appearance of inappropriate handling of bookkeeping or anything else for that matter is enough for any non-profit public trust to come forth immediately and show donors what they are doing. They didn’t and haven’t done that. Everything they’ve said to this point appears bad and looks like a cover up. Hopefully that‘s not the case, but because of the way they handled this, they‘ve brought it on themselves.

    • Ciaran Benson says:

      Hi Jhink,

      Thank you for your comments – I feel the same way. The inappropriate handling of our books is what we’re documenting right now, and starting Monday we’ll be posting results. However, we just don’t have two people who have both the skills and access to provide the information necessary for the audit and also keep the center open and operating.

      I don’t feel we’ve “written off” our handling of the closing or are trying to hide anything.

      I have already agreed that the initial public statement was horrible. I’ve spoken about that at length in other threads, but to be brief – this kind of “clear communication” is what you get when too many people talk too long about how to craft a perfect message that will cause no confusion for anyone.

      As for full disclosure – we don’t know how to do this right, we’ve proven that. That’s why we’ve gotten a professional in-house to do it for us and help us communicate it to all levels of government and to the community.

      As of this point, we’ve disclosed every detail that we actually can document that isn’t otherwise already available as a matter of public record, and have responded to every rumor we’ve become aware of.

      There is some stuff going on that we have no idea how to interpret – the auditor is saying words to us that just make us blink like deer in headlights, and we’re having to ask her to explain things to us as if to a child.

      Once we’ve figured out what she’s saying to us, and once our board has had a chance to meet and get up to speed on all of this, we’ll certainly be coming forward with more information.

      Right now, my plan is that our members should expect to see all of this as an addendum to the annual report, and once we get our scheduling person pulled off of the audit and available to do normal work again we’ll set up a meeting with the public so that we can give anyone who is interested a full and open view of what happened.

      Right now we don’t even have that ourselves though.

      I’m not trying to make apologies for the dumb stuff that we’ve done – I’m just saying that anyone who thinks we’ve got some sort of nefarious plan behind all of this is giving us a LOT more credit than we deserve, and we are responding to this as quickly as we can.

      Yes – this is what we look like when we try to do something at normal business speeds, and we know that how our clumsy, lurching movements look to the community is a problem too.

      • Star Foster says:

        What you’re doing isn’t nearly as clumsy as how you’re communicating it. I don’t think you’re nefarious. I think you’re simply unfit to manage thousands of dollars in good faith donations, and the more you try to do a public relations spin to control this story, which you began by miscommunicating, the more you confirm my opinion of your unfitness.

  4. A.C. Fisher Aldag says:

    Please publish the results of your internal audit, but please remember to remove account numbers… you might think that’s academic, but I made that mistake, once. All of this stuff is a learning curve. Publishing the results will set everyone’s mind at ease… donors, potential donors, the people who use the center, Pagans across the nation, and the non-Pagan public. Transparency is a good thing.

  5. Jhink says:

    Unfortunately, at this point, I’ve got to agree with the comment from Star Foster above. And this isn’t directed at the single director who responded to my earlier comment. This is directed at the entire board. Good faith in people in a position of authority only goes so far. And if the board is unable to manage and oversee or if they don’t have the people on the board who have the ability and talent to do it, they need to step down and be replaced. Nobody on the board should have a “deer in the headlight look” on their face when discussing SPC finances and donations. If they can’t do that, as sad as it is for the community, the SPC should be shut down, at least until a competent set of board members can be found.

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