CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service Resigns Three Months After Breitbart Broke Story on Internal Investigation

Linda Hartke, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, speaks at The 2017 Concordia Annua
Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Concordia Summit

Linda Hartke is out as CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, three months after Breitbart News first reported on an internal investigation into claims of financial irregularities and harassment at the embattled non-profit under her leadership.

“Today, Linda Hartke, President and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), announced her departure from LIRS after eight years of service,” LIRS said in a memorandum sent to its donors, Lutheran congregations, and the U.S. government on Tuesday.

A source familiar with the operations with LIRS tells Breitbart News that the Board of Directors fired Hartke on Thursday of last week, a consequence of the findings of the internal investigation into her tenure as CEO.

Despite Hartke’s forced ouster, the memorandum announcing her departure was couched in polite words of praise all around:

Hartke said, “Leading LIRS has been a blessing to me, and I have sought to give generously of my gifts for the sake of refugees, immigrants, and the communities that welcome them. During these years I have worked with a remarkable staff team, we have stayed focused on our mission of welcoming newcomers, and centered in our faith that God calls us to love and serve all of our neighbors. But now we will work through more change as last week I discussed my departure with the LIRS Board, which I believe comes at the right time for me personally and for LIRS.”

LIRS Board Chair and Bishop Michael Rinehart of the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod (ELCA) said, “Linda Hartke has provided important leadership at LIRS through challenging years. She has partnered with the Board in reshaping LIRS’ vision, mission statement, core values and strategic directions. She led efforts to reshape our governance structure in pursuit of excellence, and nurtured ongoing and new strategic partnerships. Linda’s leadership has also significantly strengthened LIRS financially to ensure sustainability through challenging times. On behalf of the LIRS Board of Directors, we are deeply grateful for her service, her passion for our mission, and her tireless work of welcome.”

Rev. Bart Day, LIRS Board member and CEO of the Lutheran Church Extension Fund of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod said, “I am full of gratitude for Linda’s 8 years of leadership at LIRS, during which she instilled an important focus on engaging local congregations and Lutheran leaders. Through her efforts, thousands of congregations are growing in their work of welcome through celebrating Refugee Sunday, receiving refugees, teaching English, visiting detained immigrants, and engaging in speaking out for refugees with elected officials.”

“The issues related to Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIaRS) are widespread but are rooted in the main areas of financial mismanagement and the incompetence of leadership,” a source familiar with the operations of the refugee resettlement industry told Breitbart News in November, adding that “seven key areas” were the focus of the internal investigation:

Financial Mismanagement
Failure to Address Financial Irregularities Discovered by Independent Audits
Wasteful Spending
Concealment of Taxable Income
Timesheet Fraud
Budget Grant Fraud
Large Severance and Settlement Payouts to Avoid Public and Board Reporting

The State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) has contracted with LIRS and eight other voluntary agencies (VOLAGs) to resettle refugees admitted into the United States under the Refugee Admissions Program. Over the past several decades, federal payments to these VOLAGs have averaged about $1 billion annually.

Virtually all of LIRS’s revenues come from the federal government.

Breitbart News asked PRM if it has initiated its own investigation into financial irregularities at LIRS.

“I can say that we take very seriously any allegation of misuse of U.S. government funds,” a spokesperson for the State Department told Breitbart News.

“We have a zero tolerance policy for fraud, waste, and abuse of American taxpayer resources. We have established active risk mitigation measures in our funding arrangements with partners. We closely monitor each of our assistance awards and we will thoroughly investigate any reports of misuse and will then take appropriate action, as needed,‎” the spokesperson added.



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