Chicago Metropolitan Sports Association (CMSA) officials are still trying to determine the circumstances under which its former treasurer allegedly took thousands of dollars from the organization.
CMSA announced May 4 that it had filed a five-count lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Cook County seeking damages and restitution from its former board treasurer for fraud and misappropriation of funds. According to a statement, former Board Treasurer Michael O. Rice II "engaged in a pattern of misappropriation and fraud, issuing checks to himself, inventing false justifications for the checks, cashing the checks, and concealing his activities from the board of directors and officers."
CMSA officials additionally maintain that Rice acted intentionally, willfully and maliciously in flagrant breach of his fiduciary responsibilities to CMSA."
This is the second episode of financial indiscretions that CMSA has contended with in just over four years.
Rice served as board treasurer for about eight years, until he lost a bid for re-election in 2020. CMSA alleges more than $160,000 in questionable transactions came to light after an audit of the organization's books.
Board members who have not served on the board concurrent with Rice have formed a committee to investigate his transactions, according to Member-at-Large Jeremiah Stevens, who said that auditors had noticed several changes in its accounting records of checks made out to Rice. Those changes supposedly happened in the weeks between Rice losing his reelection and the next treasurer taking over.
"The rationale for those checks had changed," Stevens, who joined the board in the term after Rice left, explained. "The dates had changed. The check numbers had changedthis was caught by our auditor, so what had, with a check here and a check there, looked to be reasonable expenses might not have been. Otherwise, why the need to change them? That's what we're investigating further."
Rice would have been needed a second signature to put checks through. Stevens said that, in pulling the old checks, CMSA officials didn't recognize the second signature Rice was using, adding, "That's also part of our ongoing investigation."
Windy City Times attempted to contact Rice for comment on the allegations but received no response.
In January 2017, Windy City times reported that the organization had entered into a repayment agreement from a former official who'd allegedly embezzled just under $40,000. That repayment had started the previous fall, but some CMSA members alleged at the time that the organization had not been transparent about the theft.
That money was never entirely repaid, Stevens said. He also noted that connections between that past episode and the current one are also being investigated.
"We're trying to make sure that community and current members know that this board is relatively new, though a few members overlap by a year or two with the previous administration," Stevens said. "We really took over on Aug. 1  and have been proactive in trying to close up any and all loopholes that allow this sort of thing to happen. We've been investigating all the previous comments from auditors for policy changes, which for whatever reasons weren't adopted. … We are committed to any and all efforts that will help to ensure that our members and our community can trust that their finances are safe with this organization."