Mobile Area Association of Realtors CEO Stephanie White has vehemently denied any wrongdoing after a civil suit accused her of mismanaging funds at her previous job in Florida.
Bay County Association of Realtors Treasurer Robert Britt accused White of mishandling payroll funds in a civil suit he filed in July in Bay County Circuit Court to gain access to the association’s financial documents.
“Due to an increase in BCAR payroll payments in 2015, but without the corresponding increase in employees or salaries, Britt began requesting information from BCAR and its CEO, Stephanie White, regarding the payroll,” the complaint reads. “Each month BCAR made a payment for payroll from its operating account into a separate account or accounts … White exclusively controlled those separate payroll accounts.”
White said the allegations leveled at her in the suit are “100 percent” untrue and that Britt only made them in an attempt to stop a merger the BCAR board had approved with the Emerald Coast Association of Realtors. She said he had a “vendetta” against her. The merger was subsequently voted down by membership.
Britt did not return a call this week seeking comment. Both of Britt’s attorneys, John W. Clark and William B. Price, declined to comment.
Defending herself, White mentioned two reports from accounting firm Carr, Riggs & Ingram which she said clear her of any wrongdoing.
One report, which was included in court documents, states “salaries, bonuses and education appear to be all paid through the payroll system appropriately.”
However, in a motion for an emergency injunction filed in July aimed at stopping the proposed merger and saving Britt’s voluntary position, attorneys for Britt argue the certified public accountant’s report is based on incomplete information.
Current BCAR President Brian Neubauer also came to White’s defense in a letter sent via email Monday evening. He wrote that the accounting firm’s report “unequivocally” clears White.
“After the Association received that report it felt that Ms. White was cleared and there was no further concern,” he wrote. “Although Mr. Britt is the current treasurer of the Association, he does not speak for the Association. The Association does not agree with his accusations and it believes that these are merely accusations unsupported by facts.”
Also referencing the accounting firm’s report, Margy Grant, chief legal counsel for Florida Realtors, said Britt’s allegations, which he made last November, are without merit.
The suit also accuses the BCAR board and White of failure to allow Britt access to financial documents in his role as treasurer. However, in response to questions from Britt’s attorneys, the defendant notes Britt was given access to all the files.
“Plaintiff was afforded the opportunity to review all documents he requested in a meeting with the accountants that provided a thorough review of the payroll data,” the document reads. “During the course of such meeting, plaintiff explained he no longer needed to review the documentation and that he was satisfied with what had been produced.”
Teresa Dyer, BCAR past president, elaborated, saying Britt was given the information he sought several times and each time White was cleared of any wrongdoing.
“He’s gotten the information he wants each time and gets the same answer each time,” she said.
The accusations, Dyer said, boil down to a vendetta Britt and others have against White.
“People don’t like her and they’re lashing out,” she said. “Stephanie hasn’t done anything wrong.”
Dyer said Mobile is lucky to have White, who worked to grow BCAR’s image statewide.
“She pushed us forward at the state level,” she said. “She’s very good at education and very, very smart.”
Richard Weavil of The Weavil Co. said he helped in the search for a new MAAR CEO. He said in the vetting process he spoke with a number of contacts and got nothing but glowing reports about White.
“We saw an incredible, dedicated person who had an incredible amount of experience,” he said. “The people in her association really liked her a lot.”
In addition, Weavil said White wasn’t looking for a job when they plucked her from Bay County. He said that was an important aspect because they wanted to hire someone who was happy at their current job. Weavil said White has done a great job since coming to Mobile and he isn’t concerned with the accusations.
Prior to her position at BCAR, White was education director at Emerald Coast Association of Realtors and a broker and agent development coordinator in Jacksonville, St. Augustine and Tallahassee, Florida. According to her résumé, she has “21 years of cross-functional, executive and professional development experience.”
“She was a great hire all around,” he said. “I’m extremely confident in our choice. If the complaint had been true, I believe we would’ve heard about it.”