An Early ACORN Whistleblower: Karen Inman

Well before Congress defunded the discredited community organizing group ACORN, the current scandal had its genesis in the most surprising of places, ACORN’s own national board of directors. In the summer of 2008, a small group of ACORN directors blew the whistle on the organization’s nearly $1 million embezzlement and cover up case.

Perhaps ACORN’s most determined critic was the least likely, Karen Inman, a retired St. Paul school teacher and now a 73 year old grandmother. “I have always believed if it’s right you continue and if it’s wrong you bring it to attention,” Inman told me.

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When she answers the door, you get a glimpse of the stubborn tenacity that first made Karen Inman one of ACORN’s national leaders, and then, one of its most notorious outcasts. Recovering from a torn Achilles, Inman didn’t appear to mind the knee-high plastic black boot on her right calf, much less let it slow her down. If anything, she might have moved a little faster just to make up for it and it was no coincidence she was wearing a bright, ACORN-red colored blouse.

“I’m appalled that people don’t step up, that they continue to bury their head in the sand,” she said.

Inman had been a true believer, who signed up for what she thought were all the right reasons with organizers going door to door in her blue collar, St. Paul neighborhood. Matter of fact, she still is a true believerjust not in ACORN.

“I think there needs to be a group that deals with low and moderate income people, there needs to be a group that helps them get a voice,”

Inman told me. “I don’t see anything wrong with organizing, but I do see something wrong with an organization with the funds going to the top and not getting down to who it’s supposed to get to.”

Karen and her colleague Marcel Reid led the charge in exposing the corruption from the inside out by a group called the ACORN 8.

“I think they picked the wrong two people with Marcel and I because we probably were on the board the most quiet,” Inman. “I acted rather as a parliamentarian and the people on the board did not have parliamentary procedure background. I think that ACORN has been dumbfounded that they were not able to just shut us down.”

It took more than parliamentary expertise to help convince the board to ax Dale Rathke, brother of ACORN founder and CEO Wade Rathke, following revelations of embezzlement. And Inman put the motion on the table to hold Wade accountable.

“To cover it up is one thing,” the ex-activist said. “But then to keep the person that perpetrated the crime on the payroll was more than incredible. I was incredulous.”

Determined to carry out her fiduciary duties and get to the bottom what ailed ACORN, next they sued ACORN, concerned over the need to preserve critical documents and financial records. For her courage and convictions, Inman was fired from ACORN’s board of directors, along with Reid.

“We were also banned from the offices,” Inman said. “It was supposed to happen that if we showed up at the office, we’d be trespassing.

We’d be in violation and we’d be arrested.”

Inman and the ACORN 8 filed a complaint against ACORN with the U.S. Department of Justice, alleging financial problems, civil rights and RICO violations. As accustomed as she’s become to ACORN’s misdeeds and mischief, however, Inman was flabbergasted by the undercover videos of the phony pimp and prostitute being aided and advised in several ACORN offices. “I was absolutely knocked out,” Inman acknowledged.

Karen Inman remains persona non grata in ACORN offices both nationally and locally in Minnesota, as a recent trip with her to the activist organization’s St. Paul offices confirmed. Declining to take the elevator, Karen Inman hiked up the steps into ACORN’s second floor offices and renewed a request for financial information on its Minnesota operations. The former secretary of Minnesota ACORN was instructed to leave. When she did, they quickly locked the door behind her. You may wonder why the evident concern with a 73 year old grandmother. After a few hours of trying to keep up with her, I don’t.

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