Citizen Panel Will Study United Way

Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles-area United Way named a citizens committee Thursday to examine the charity’s finances in response to disclosures that more than $330,000 in donations was loaned to agency executives.

The committee will be chaired by Robert Dockson, chairman of California Federal Savings & Loan Assn. None of the committee members is a United Way director, although some members have served as United Way volunteers in the past.

United Way Chairman William F. Kieschnick, retired president of Atlantic Richfield, said the citizens committee will meet behind closed doors “to protect the integrity of the process.” He said the committee will make make no public comments until its inquiry is completed, no later than Aug. 31.

The more than $330,000 in loans--most of which were interest free, unsecured and remain unpaid--were arranged by United Way President Francis X. McNamara Jr. with only the approval of a few key volunteers, notably insurance executive Walter B. Gerken, who was United Way chairman from 1982 to 1984.


Kieschnick said the board agreed Thursday that volunteer oversight of management must be significantly improved and that United Way directors will begin private talks immediately on how to accomplish this. He said the board also agreed that full committees of the board will oversee future audits and setting of staff salaries. Until now a few volunteers with close ties to McNamara reviewed these functions.

“I’m going to tell our committee, when it meets Monday in our (CalFed’s) board room, that the object here is financial structure, control and procedures and wherever that might lead is where we will go,” Dockson said in a telephone interview. He said emphasis will be placed on establishing “clear lines of authority” for staff and volunteers, especially over disbursing money.

The committee will get free legal advice from the firm of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, and free auditing services from Arthur Young & Co., a national accounting firm, Kieschnick said.

Serving with Dockson on the citizens committee will be attorney John C. Argue of Argue Freston Pearson Haribison & Myers; Sister Magdalen Coughlin, CSJ, president of Mount St. Mary’s College; Jack K. Horton, chairman of the executive committee at Southern California Edison Co., and Ignacio E. Lozano Jr., publisher and editor of the Spanish-language newspaper La Opinion.


Also, Anelise N. Mosich, USC professor of accountancy; Alfred Osborne Jr., associate dean of the UCLA Graduate School of Management; attorney Edward Sanders of Sanders Barnett Goldsmith & Jacobson; Togo W. Tanaka, chairman of Gramercy Enterprises; Dr. Joseph Van der Meulen, USC vice president for health affairs, and U.S. District Judge Laughlin Waters.

A representative from organized labor will be named soon, Kieschnick said.

United Way raised $85.5 million in pledges this year for 350 human-care agencies in Los Angeles County and western San Bernardino County.