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Employee of Spokane shelter operator accused of fraud, city investigating

woodward cannon shelter (2).jpg
Rebecca White
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Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward, center podium, addresses the press alongside Salvation Army leader Ken Perrine, left and Guardians Foundation Executive Director Mike Shaw, center left, in 2021.

The city of Spokane is investigating an employee for fraud at an organization that operates two city-owned homeless shelters.

The Guardians Foundation, a veteran focused non-profit, operates the Cannon Street shelter near the Brown’s Edition neighborhood and the new Trent Shelter, which is a 250-bed facility in an industrial area. In August, the Guardians were awarded a nearly $6.6 million-dollar contract for the new facility.

In a statement, Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward said the non-profit informed her it had filed a police report against one of its employees over concerns about how they were handling funds. The mayor has ordered an internal audit of its dealings with the organization and has promised to turn over any evidence to law enforcement.

“That fact-finding inquiry is underway and the City will provide any evidence of irregularities to law enforcement. Any additional comment will come once the fact-finding process is complete,” Woodward’s office wrote.

A spokesperson for the Spokane Police Department said they had no comment on the investigation beyond what the mayor's office had released.

The organization has handled millions government funds across multiple contracts to provide services for Spokane’s homeless residents.

City council members Lori Kinnear and Karen Stratton have called for a full investigation and transparency, saying discrepancies could range from $100,000 to $1 million.

“Because of different funding sources, this could potentially become a federal investigation,” Kinnear said. “This is why we’re adamant about receiving information via a criminal investigation. The City of Spokane is already in a fragile homeless situation; to add fraudulent activity weakens our progression and frankly is unacceptable.”

Leadership at the Guardians Foundation did not immediately respond to a voicemail seeking comment.

This story is evolving and is being updated as more information comes in.