A college professor who set up a hugely successful fundraising campaign to pay off St. Paul Schools student lunch debt following the fatal police shooting of Philando Castile has been accused of paying out less than half the amount raised.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison on Thursday announced his office is pursuing enforcement action against Pamela Fergus, who introduced a fundraising effort to her diversity and ethics class at Metropolitan State University in 2017, setting an initial goal of $5,000 for the "Philando Feeds The Children" project.
But the fundraiser captured the imagination across America, eventually leading to more than $200,000 of donations flooding in to pay off student lunch debt in the name of Castile, who was a nutrition specialist and cafeteria supervisor at J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School, and who was fatally shot during a traffic stop on July 6, 2016.
However on Thursday, Ellison announced that of the more than $200,000 raised from the drive, only a little over $80,000 has actually been donated to St. Paul Public Schools by Fergus.
Ellison says his office has made numerous attempts to "constructively work" with Fergus "to account for the missing money," but says the office was "constantly rebuffed" by her.
As a result, his office is taking enforcement action, saying there remains $120,000 that Fergus "cannot and will not account for ... that's wrong, we're not gonna stand for it."
Lindsey Lee, an assistant attorney general in Ellison's office, said all the money donated to the Philando fund ended up in Fergus' checking account.
"This money didn't belong to her, it belonged to a charitable cause, the public trusted this would go to help local kids eat lunch," Lee said, saying "we've not been able to get an answer" as to what happened with the remaining $120,000.
Also on the virtual press conference call was Philando Castile's mother, Valerie Castile, who said she'd been approached by Fergus to be involved in the effort with her diversity and ethics class, saying what was supposed to be a 1-week campaign became a year-long one,.
"At the end of it, I asked for her records, which she refused to give me," she said.
"I want to apologize to anyone who made donations ... my apologies go out to you guys, we'll continue to do the work."