Columbia Club Foundation says funds stolen by director

A director of the foundation that supports the Columbia Club in downtown Indianapolis was caught stealing funds, the not-for-profit says.

Club president Miles D. Schroeder, a local dentist, informed members of the theft in a letter dated Jan. 25.

The letter does not name the director nor does it specify how much was taken. When reached by phone, Schroeder declined to divulge further details.

Foundation president Gerald Lamkin, a former president of Ivy Tech Community College, referred questions to Schroeder.

The foundation is not pursuing legal charges against the accused director, according to the letter.

“The foundation has represented to us that it is currently conducting an audit and obtaining restitution from the individual who misappropriated the funds,” Schroeder wrote to members.

The foundation issued an additional statement Tuesday afternoon via e-mail: "When the Columbia Club Foundation recently became aware of a theft of funds by one individual at the Foundation, we took immediate action and began a thorough investigation which is still underway. The majority of the stolen funds have been recovered and the Foundation is currently working to recover the remaining funds. In addition, the Foundation is strengthening its policies and procedures to ensure this does not happen again."

The foundation has struggled financially in recent years. In 2008, the most current year in which a Form 990 financial statement is available, it reported a loss of $51,583 on revenue of $31,022. The foundation reported assets of $580,531.

The foundation was founded in 1983, shortly after the Columbia Club building on Monument Circle was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Its mission is “to restore, preserve and protect the exterior facade of the historic clubhouse by encouraging contributions and through the development of an adequate endowment,” according to its website.

It remains a separate entity from the club and maintains its own management, governance and finances.

“No club employees, officers or directors were involved, implicit or implicated in the theft in any regard,” Schroeder said in the letter. “Further, no club funds were mishandled, misappropriated or misused at any time.”

Still, the club’s board of directors takes the theft by “this individual” very seriously and will provide members an update once more information becomes available, he said.

The Columbia Club, a private social and business-networking club, is led by James Rentschler, who became general manager in 2009. At the time of his arrival, it had just 1,600 members, 24 percent fewer than in 2007, and about half its peak count in the late 1990s.

The Columbia Club was originally organized in 1889 by Col. Eli Lilly to support Gen. Benjamin Harrison’s presidential campaign.



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