published Sunday, February 24th, 2013

Whatever happened to ... Multicultural Chamber went silent after 2011 city audit

Sherrie GIlchrist, then executive director of the now-defunct Tennessee Multicultural Chamber of Commerce, speaks to the media in 12011.
Sherrie GIlchrist, then executive director of the now-defunct Tennessee Multicultural Chamber of Commerce, speaks to the media in 12011.
Photo by Staff File Photo.

Question: Whatever happened to the Tennessee Multicultural Chamber of Commerce?

Answer: The organization is no longer in business, according to information from a former board member.

It has no listed telephone, its corporate charter was administratively dissolved in February 2012 by the Tennessee secretary of state's office and it has not filed a form 990 with the IRS since the 2010 tax year.

Formed in 1999 as the African-American Chamber of Commerce, the organization received funding from Chattanooga and Hamilton County until 2011.

The money stopped after a Times Free Press investigation showed inconsistencies in budget requests submitted to the local governments.

A later review by City Auditor Stan Sewell showed possible financial mismanagement, questionable land deals and exorbitant salaries and travel expenses.

Its executive director resigned, and the FBI and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development began looking into the use of federal loans and grants to buy property for a business solutions center on M.L. King Boulevard.

The chamber defaulted on loans and was sued by the lender, the Chattanooga Community Development Financial Institution, which bought the property back at auction.

In 2012, Hamilton County commissioners voted to give their $75,000 annual funding for the minority chamber to the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce for a minority business development program.

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about Judy Walton...

Judy Walton has worked 25 years at the Chattanooga Times and the Times Free Press as an editor and reporter focusing on government coverage and investigations. At various times she has been an assistant metro editor, region reporter and editor, county government reporter, government-beat team leader, features editor and page designer. Originally from California, Walton was brought up in a military family and attended a dozen schools across the country. She earned a journalism degree ...

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