AUSTIN (KXAN) - A program aimed at helping needy children in our area have a merry Christmas has turned on its side.
Not only has KXAN has learned the Christmas Bureau of Austin and Travis County will not be part of giving gifts to thousands of kids this year, but now Austin police are taking over those duties with its Blue Santa program and are also looking in to possible misconduct at the charity.
The Christmas Bureau of Austin and Travis County typically raises about 100-thousand dollars a year to help needy families during the Holidays. Today, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said he is opening a criminal investigation, and plans to track every dollar given to the Christmas Bureau.
Acevedo said it appears Christmas Bureau President Shon Washington has "dropped-off the face of the earth." But he couldn't have dropped too far, because KXAN spoke with Washington two days ago.
We wanted to know why the Christmas Bureau of Austin and Travis County was behind this year and tried to get an update on the nonprofit's status heading into the Holidays.
Washington told us he was gone from the end of October through most of November dealing with a family emergency, specifically the death of his father. He also said there is less than $100 in the Christmas Bureau account.
When we caught up with Washington Tuesday he said he was trying to find a location to operate from and get the PayPal account and computers set-up for this Holiday season. He said he was confident he'd be able to get it together by Christmas.
"We are going to make it happen again on the 25th," Washington told us. "Every applicant will be served."
But Washington also admitted he dropped the ball and was scrambling to get things done.
"Something happened with the application process where I left someone in charge with that and it just didn't come through so Blue Santa unfortunately was left to have to get the application on their own where we usually provide those every year," Washington said. "Once again my humble apologies for that. I barely got in town last night and trying to put things together."
Acevedo said there may be more to the story and an investigation is underway.
"A lot of flags have been raised. I have a lot of concern and the only way we're going to get that answer is to investigate what the status is and we are launching a criminal investigation," said Chef Acevedo.
Acevedo stressed that there has not been any criminal conduct regarding the Christmas Bureau found so far "but only way we'll find out is to launch a very thorough investigation that's what I've directed my staff to do and we're in the process of now."
And KXAN took a closer look at Washington's recent past and found that in along with his involvement in the Christmas charity, he has also been involved with strippers and drugs.
Court records show Washington spent 30 days in jail in late August, after police arrested him on an outstanding warrant at an Austin strip club.
Police found two bags of meth in his pocket. He pleaded guilty to the charge of possession of a controlled substance and waived his right to trial. But APD told us that arrest is unrelated to their current investigation at the Christmas Bureau.
We also looked at the finances of the Christmas Bureau and found their tax-return from 2009. The Christmas Bureau's 2010 filing shows it received more than $128,000. That was the year before Washington became the President of the Bureau. We are still looking in to whether any the 990 reports have been filed since.
Mack Brown's attorney and the university's new athletics director say the Texas coach has not resigned, denying a report that Brown was ready to step down after 16 seasons with the Longhorns.
A large majority of the crowd that poured into Austin City Hall on Tuesday night was disappointed with the Parks and Recreation Department's decision to approve a smaller off leash area at Auditorium Shores.
The top prosecutor in Travis County found herself on the witness stand Tuesday to answer questions about her professional and personal history along with her history of alcohol.
A proposal to build a highway in south Austin is getting mixed reviews from neighbors.
An Austin man has been convicted in a human smuggling case in which a teen says she was forced to wear revealing clothes and sexually assaulted while bound for New Jersey.
An historic early December cold spell is slowly waning, but temperatures will remain well below average for a couple more days.