JULY 29, 2009
The disorderly Harvard professor who made headlines for hostilely confronting a “racist cop” runs a charity that gave a chunk of its grant money to his fiancé and his assistant and violated a state law requiring nonprofits to report financial information.
Renowned black scholar Henry Louis Gates founded the nonprofit (Inkwell Foundation) in 2005 to support and research African and African-American programs yet a substantial portion of its money has gone to administrative expenses that were “mischaracterized” as research grants until they came under scrutiny this week.
With all the media attention surrounding his recent arrest and fiery racial profiling accusations, Gates decided to amend a two-year-old tax report that erroneously classifies a $10,000 bonus to his Harvard assistant and a $1,000 award to another secretary as research grants.
The mistake was reported this week by an online news site that points out that, as Inkwell’s president, Gates signed the original inaccurate report to the Internal Revenue Service. The correction puts the charity’s administrative expenses at nearly 40% of that year’s spending instead of less than one percent that it previously reported.
The charity’s second-largest grant—$6,000—went to the now famous professor’s fiancé, who happened to serve on its board for a year. The talented and soon-to-be Mrs. Professor Gates earned the money translating documents relating to the Mexican slave trade from Spanish and Dutch. Additionally, the Inkwell Foundation has failed to comply with a Massachusetts law requiring public charities to report financial information to the attorney general’s office.
Gates has downplayed the violations as honest mistakes, exposed only because the worldwide media coverage of his arrest inevitably dug into other parts of his life. The acclaimed academic became disorderly when Cambridge Police responded to a neighbor’s call of a break-in at his house earlier this month.
The professor refused to provide identification, accused police of harassing him because he’s a black man in America and berated officers, crowning a sergeant a “racist cop.” When the sergeant asked to speak to Gates outside, the often soft-spoken scholar said “Yeah, I’ll speak with your mama outside.”
President Obama, a friend of Gates’, subsequently ignited a firestorm by publicly saying that police acted stupidly in arresting his pal, adding that the country has a long history of African Americans and Latinos disproportionately being stopped by law enforcement. Obama has since invited his friend and the sergeant who arrested him to the White House for what the media has jokingly labeled a “Beer Summit.”
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