Former CEO Sylvia McMullen, Arts Council dispute details of improper use of credit card

Published: Jan. 17, 2019 at 4:59 PM CST
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The controversy continues at a local non-profit.

The Arts Council of the Brazos Valley's new CEO departed after she says she accidentally used their credit card for personal use.

Sylvia McMullen offered her resignation January 11. She says she also wrote them a check for the disputed amount.

On January 14, after McMullen says she hadn't heard from the board regarding her resignation, McMullen says she sent another letter, rescinding the resignation.

On January 16, the Arts Council released to the public that the non-profit had ended McMullen's employment.

KBTX obtained a letter of the resignation Thursday and it says she resigned for personal reasons.

What remains unclear is exactly how McMullen improperly used the organization's credit card.

McMullen told KBTX Thursday she made a mistake over the holidays. She admitted using an Arts Council American Express card for several personal purchases that totaled nearly $700. She said they were not online purchases, and it was a card she had in her possession.

McMullen claims she notified the organization and wrote them a check for the full amount. KBTX has seen a copy of the check that says it was deposited with Wells Fargo. The check was dated January 11 and for an amount of $697.60.

Representatives from the Arts Council paint a different picture.

Those representatives say McMullen misused the card and that it was discovered after some internal checks and balances.

Neither side is talking on camera at this point, with both declining TV interview requests Thursday.

Several KBTX staff were at the Arts Council's annual Boots and BBQ fundraiser on Saturday. There was no mention something was wrong within the organization.

On Thursday KBTX reached out to multiple board members and staff but were referred to their attorney, Gaines West who said they wouldn't speak on camera because of the ongoing investigation. A statement released by West clarifies that the board voted to end McMullen's employment on Wednesday. It also states that they are planning a more complete audit.

Below are the full statements from Gaines West and Sylvia McMullen.

Local attorney Gaines West issued this statement to KBTX:

"Today, January 16, 2019, my client, the Arts Council of the Brazos Valley, voted to end their employment relationship with Sylvia McMullen. Last Friday, Ms. McMullen tendered her resignation, but has since sought to rescind her resignation. Through an existing set of internal checks and balances the Arts Council identified misuse of an Arts Council credit card by Ms. McMullen. After admitting her wrongdoing, the Arts Council immediately put Ms. McMullen on unpaid administrative leave beginning last Friday when the wrongdoing was uncovered. The Arts Council has completed its own investigation and will turn over its findings to a forensic accountant it plans to hire to perform a further more complete audit. Additionally, the Arts Council has informed the College Station Police Department of its findings and will fully cooperate in any ongoing investigation. Amy Salvaggio has been appointed as Interim Director by the Arts Council Board of Directors. The Arts Council Board of Directors plans to immediately begin a search for a new Director."

Sylvia McMullen issued this statement to KBTX:

In response to the release by the Arts Council of Brazos Valley through Gaines West office, to set the record straight, I realized over the holidays that I had used an Arts Council American Express credit card for a total of $697.70. I told Amy Salvaggio, Deputy Director of the ACBV and told her I would contact the treasurer, Jeff Vander Woude, and write a letter to the file and a check to cover the expenses. I talked with Jeff Vander Woude, treasurer, of the Arts Council that I had done that. I also told Pam Smits, President of the Arts Council that I had done that and written a letter and given a check to Amy Salvaggio. A resignation letter was offered and never accepted. I have had no contact or response from the Board or anyone. A spokesman for the College Station Police Department confirms a report about the incident was made Wednesday afternoon.