For many years the Christmas Bureau has provided toys and gifts to thousands of needy families in Travis County. But not this year.
Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo, along with members of Operation Blue Santa, say the director of the Christmas Bureau, Shon Washington, was unreachable for weeks. And they don't know what happened to money collected by the nonprofit.
The website with last year's information is still taking PayPal donations.
“We're going to get to the bottom of what's going on with that organization,” said Chief Acevedo. “When you take dollars from donors, you have to account for those dollars.”
Blue Santa organizer Joe Munoz says he spoke with Washington on Wednesday.
“And told him pretty much we are going to proceed without him,” Munoz said.
KVUE spoke to Washington as well. He says his plan was to get the nonprofit up and running by December 1st.
“We'll be in the building, our computers will be up and running, we'll have phone lines running, we'll have all that,” Washington said. “But everybody has the assumption that we are a year-round organization. We are not."
Chief Acevedo says there is no evidence of criminal wrongdoing on Washington’s part, but they want to make sure donations are accounted for.
“A lot of flags have been raised, a lot of concern, and the only way we're going to get that answered is we are going to be launching a criminal investigation,” Chief Acevedo said. “The Christmas Bureau, whether they know it or not, will account for every dollar either the easy way or the hard way.”
In the meantime, there are now thousands more families Operation Blue Santa has to provide for this holiday season.
While the Chuy's Children Giving to Children parade will help put a dent in the number of gifts needed, the chief says they can use more help from the community.
“We're not only talking about the 15,000 kids that we help, but we're talking about the 6,000 other folks that may not get help if everybody doesn't show up,” Chief Acevedo said. “We've got some unmet needs, and we've got a very short turnaround to meet those needs.”
Visit Operation Blue Santa if you'd like to donate.