The New Orleans Regional Black Chamber of Commerce boss who was fired Friday after four months on the job is being investigated for “financial irregularities” at his former job in New York state.

The nonprofit networking organization for Black-owned businesses announced the abrupt departure of Executive Director Jeffrey Hunt in a press release, saying only that the “Board of Directors released Jeffery Hunt from his position”, without giving further explanation.

“We are moving forward,” chamber chairman Perry Sholes said in a prepared statement, adding that an interim replacement will be named this week as the group searches for a permanent manager.

Sholes declined to elaborate on the reasons for the early departure. But Hunt, in a phone interview on Monday, confirmed he was fired by Sholes last week.

Hunt said the reason given to him by Sholes and Ruby Brown, a barrister and member of the House Council, was that he had omitted details of his former employment. Hunt maintained that he told Sholes and other chamber board members about the investigation in New York when he was interviewed for the job late last year.

“The reason was unclear to me and it was very disappointing because I moved to New Orleans four months ago and was planning on making it my home,” said Hunt, 53, who worked as a chamber of commerce. executive for more than 20 years in Detroit; Fayetteville, North Carolina; and more recently in Columbia County in New York.

Hunt was fired from his position as president and CEO of the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce in November 2020. At the time, that organization’s board of directors said in a statement that it happened. proceeds “in light of financial irregularities of which the board had just been made aware”. .”

Ongoing investigation

Columbia County District Attorney Paul Czajka later opened a criminal investigation, which Hunt said is still ongoing. The district attorney’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

“I am currently in negotiations with my lawyer and the prosecutor regarding a restitution agreement,” Hunt said. “I have not been charged or convicted of anything.”

He said the problem in Columbia County involved mixing personal expenses with business expenses, but he declined to go into specifics.

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Hunt said when he was interviewed for the job of executive director by Sholes and other chamber board members, he told them he had signed a nondisclosure agreement on the terms. of his departure from his previous employment and that he could not say that it was “a dispute of a financial nature for an amount greater than $3,000.”

Matthew Griesemer, an attorney who is an attorney and a Columbia County Chamber of Commerce board member, said he was limited in what he could say due to “an ongoing criminal case.” .

However, Griesemer said he was not aware of any NDA or rift between Hunt and the Columbia County Chamber.

Concern for efficiency

Hunt was the chamber’s third leader in as many years, having taken over from LaVerne Toombs who served for 10 months until last October.

The executive director who preceded Toombs had been a contract employee for about four years.

Hunt was the first person in the organization’s 15-year history to have extensive Chamber of Commerce experience and Chamber of Commerce Executive Association credentials. All previous leaders of the organization have come from other fields.

“NORBCC hired him for his extensive experience in chamber work and I really think he could have taken chamber work to the next level,” Toombs said, using an acronym for the chamber. She cited the success of the Chambermaids Conference held earlier this month which attracted more than 200 attendees.

“I’m just concerned about our members and black businesses,” Toombs added. “I’m concerned that members have confidence in the effectiveness of the chamber.”

The story has been corrected to show the length of service of a former NORBCC Executive Director.

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