Attorney General's Investigation Into OKC Jesus House Closed

Monday, January 16th 2012, 10:17 pm
By: News 9

A State investigation into one of Oklahoma's best known homeless shelters is now finished.

The Jesus House in downtown Oklahoma City says it's working to win back the community's trust after years of financial irresponsibility.

Since 1973, the organization has been ministering to the homeless and those who suffer from addiction. Since 2009, it's been dealing with mismanagement of money, but now the Jesus House has a reason to celebrate.

"The investigation is closed," Rick Denny, the new Jesus House executive director said.

It is that news from the Oklahoma Office of the Attorney General that is putting a smile on Denny's face. Denny became executive director of the charity in mid September as it was in the middle of the attorney general's investigation.

"We've got the utility bills paid up, and we're paying our bills as they become due," Denny said. "Things are under control."

But, Denny says things were not always under control. In 2010, News 9 was the first to shine light on the shelter's former director, Janis Mercer. Records show, that, with board approval, Mercer managed to more than double her salary to about $179,000 a year as bills at the shelter piled up. At the same time, the charity was accused of loaning money to its employees.

11/12/2010 Related Story: Jesus House Board Of Directors Votes To Cut Director's Large Salary

"We only have two employees now," Denny said. "We have myself and operations manager Kevin Smith. We're here basically seven days a week."

Now, with new leadership and new board members, Denny says operations, corporate bylaws, policies and bookkeeping have all changed.

"We're doing all those things to make this a place that gives reverence to the name over the door," Denny said.

The Oklahoma Office of the Attorney General tells the shelter's new board that it has complied with the state's request for information. As it tries to improve its image, the Jesus House says it is in great need for volunteers and money to repair the shelter. Donations have been down in recent months.

The Jesus House says it is now working to become an accredited member of a Christian nonprofit council.