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Greg Mortenson, CAI Slapped With Class Action Lawsuit, Offer Up A Defense

Posted on the 09 May 2011 by Kungfujedi @Kungfujedi
Greg Mortenson, CAI Slapped With Class Action Lawsuit, Offer Up A Defense
As the Greg Mortenson/Tree Cups of Tea controversy continues to play out, there were two new developments late last week, that come to us courtesy of Outside Online, who have been doing an outstanding job of keeping the news coming from both sides of the discussion.
First up, on Friday, a class action lawsuit was filed against Mortenson and his non-profit organization the Central Asia Institute, in Missoula, Montana. The suit, which was brought up by state legislators Jean Price and Michele Reinhart, contends that Mortenson and CAI defrauded donors, as well as people who have purchased his books, by fabricating stories about his experiences, with the intention of making money. The lawsuit also cites that this has been an ongoing, and continually perpetrated, act that has resulted in millions of dollars being donated to the cause by people who believed Mortenson's stories, which have been called into question on a number of fronts in recent weeks.
As Outside points out, the class action lawsuit spells even more trouble for the author and CAI, who are already under a criminal investigation for potential racketeering. In this latest suit, which you can read here, Price and Reinhart call for CAI to be suspended as an organization, and have its funds administered by a third party organization that would continue its charitable work in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
But Mortenson and CAI have no intention of taking these allegations sitting down. In a separate story, Outside also noted that they have prepared a defense, which will be released in an annual report called "Journey of Hope." Typically, the report is released in November, and serves as a way of updating major sponsors and supports of CAI as to what is happening with the organization. But the 2011 edition of Journey of Hope is coming much sooner than that.
The newsletter gives few direct responses to the recent allegations against Mortentson and his charitable arm. Instead, it offers some broad defenses, and highlights the good things that CAI has planned for the  months ahead, including building as many as 60 new schools in Afghanistan this year alone, and launching a special education program designed for women and girls.
In the way of defense, the organization points to its 1996 charter in which it says that it not only will build schools but also do outreach programs to the public. One of the major charges against CAI is the millions it spends on promoting Mortenson and his books. It seems they are filing all of that under the very broad umbrella of public outreach. They also note that they've been the victim of embezzlement, which cost them a lot of money and failed to produce a number of schools, due in large part to a trusted, but highly corrupt employee.
All of this comes after 60 Minutes ran an expose on Mortenson a few weeks back, which questioned the truthfulness behind some of the stories in his books, and leveled allegations against the way that CAI is being managed and appropriating its funds. Since that time, there have been a number of people who have stepped forward to both defend and refute the author, who has admitted to taking some poetic license, at the very least, with some of his tales.
It'll be interesting to see how this all plays out in the long run. I've said it before when covering this topic, and I'll say it again. CAI has done a lot of great work in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and it is sad to all of that overshadowed by these stories and allegations. Hopefully, at some point down the line, the non-profit can get back to doing what it was intended to do, without dark clouds looming over head.

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COMMENTS ( 4 )

By Susan Hale Whitmore
posted on 24 August at 17:45
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Huge new font of information available to all!

See the _Master List _of ALL projects built and/or funded by CAI in Afghanistan & Pakistant:

www.ikat.org and click on Projects

But then read their blog ~ especially the guest postings. True, varied, and fascinating!!

By snowleopard
posted on 27 May at 07:15
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Just so you know Michele Reinhart is a 31 year old recent graduate of the University of Montana School of Law. In the 2010 election (her second) she won with a whopping 2,019 votes. In 2008 she received a total of 2,693 votes. While a law student she received a Jent D. Steiger Followship for the study of consumer protection. It looks like the sophomore representative decided to file first and ask questions later, and not waiting for the attorney general to issue a statement regarding his own investigation makes her frivolous lawsuit look more like grandstanding. An attorney in Helena, MT estimated the costs of answering the motions created by this suit is $20,000 per week on both sides. She did not bother to reread the book, in the introduction, writer David O. Relin states "his fluid sense of time made pinning down the exact sequence of many events in this book almost impossible" a disclaimer for readers who now want to hold both accountable to the letter of the law based on memories that were nearly 20 years old. The suit is so unspecific in it's claims (she is basically saying I saw it on 60 Minutes so it must be true) it will be dismissed in the very near future. I doubt Ms. Reinhart will have a happy re-election campagin, the voters in Montana are up to here with all the baloney.

By shwco
posted on 20 May at 03:07
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Thank you for a balanced update and for recognition of the work CAI has done so far.

I find that the "60 Minutes" report consists of incomplete information, a stupid gotcha style, and snarky tone, very disrespectful. Meanwhile Jon Krakauer's piece is an excellent example of opportunism and look-at-me-I'm-better-than-he!

Since then, there have been some superb discussions posted about hero worship, about rushing to judgement, about the responsibilities of leadership v. followership.

Given the speed and complexity of the world, not to mention our ever decreasing distance from "others" in it, I think it's perfectly fair as an individual for me to lean toward those people and opinions who bring out the best in ME. So I'll stick with the likes of you, and Mr. Mortenson, and those who AT LEAST live the precept of "innocent until proven guilty." Thanks.

By jbergman
posted on 13 May at 01:00
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Allegations and accusations made against Greg Mortenson by Jon Krakauer are addressed in a section of Journey of Hope and in a FAQ section of Alima, the Central Asia Institute newsletter, which was published May 11. Go to www.ikat.org for these publications, and for the truth! Thanks.