Officials of the Zoe Christian Center, Ventura County's primary homeless shelter, this week denied allegations that they had withheld financial records requested by the 1988-89 Ventura County Grand Jury.
"It's outrageous," said Zoe founder Fred Judy. "I can't believe the grand jury would make a statement like that. We always open our records to anybody. All our donors have to do is request our financial statement and we'll give it to them. If the grand jury asked for our statement, we would have given it to them too."
Judy, who said he was baffled by the grand jury's statement, said jurors contacted him once last year for "an update on the organization" and its plans, but did not request financial records. "Traditionally, they've always been real supportive, so I can't understand why they would come out with a statement like that," Judy said.
But Leonard Harris, foreman of the grand jury, which ended its yearlong tenure this week, said: "I have it well-confirmed that the report as written is absolutely correct--that, yes, he was asked and, no, he did not comply."
Harris said members of the grand jury asked Judy and other Zoe officials several times during the year for a financial statement and were refused each time. "I want to make it clear that we are very supportive of the group. They're on the right track and their cause is wonderful. But we feel that they owe a financial statement to people who ask because they operate on grant funds plus voluntary contributions," he said.
In its year-end report, the grand jury criticized Judy for "being reluctant to disclose its financial statement."
The report said: "This stand has caused many former supporters to have doubts as to the motives" of Judy and Zoe. The report urged him to open the Oxnard-based organization's financial records to public scrutiny to prove that the center's money is being spent in "an appropriate manner."
Oxnard housing director Sal Gonzales said Zoe officials have complied with requests for financial information to obtain grant funds in connection with its women's shelter operations. "I know they have been forthcoming with any information we have asked for in that regard," he said.