Internal conflict, reports of misused funds bog down immigrant nonprofit

The staff at Chamblee-based Center for Pan Asian Community Services (CPACS) is protesting its leadership.

Reports of corruption, allegations of oppressive leadership and an apparent staff revolt are threatening to derail a nonprofit with deep ties in Atlanta’s Asian and Pacific Islander communities.

Since 1980, the Center for Pan Asian Community Services (CPACS) has provided a variety of social and health services to immigrant and refugee families. But that work has been overshadowed in recent weeks by an escalating confrontation between the nonprofit’s Board of Directors and many staff members, who have staged protests decrying corruption and calling for board members’ resignations.

Among the staff’s grievances are the findings of an internal investigation conducted earlier this year, which noted that CPACS’ then co-CEO Chaiwon Kim and her family own several buildings that are currently leased by the nonprofit — two are located in Norcross. In addition to rent payments, CPACS reportedly spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in construction costs on those properties.

The investigation, conducted by an outside law firm and completed on April 8, also documented a series of “improper expenditures,” including the misuse of federal COVID-19 relief funding, and allegations of payments to Kim’s late husband for services that were not provided. It also revealed instances of seeming nepotism, with Kim hiring her son, who went on to benefit from pay increases roughly four times as large as those reported by most employees.

Last week, the board fired CPACS’ other co-CEO, Jung Ha Kim, a decision she says was taken because she spoke up about alleged abuses at the organization.

Chaiwon Kim, meanwhile, has told staff she is retiring. She has not responded to the AJC’s requests for comment.

Tension between staff and the board ratcheted up on July 19, when dozens of staffers dropped into a board meeting and asked for Jung Ha Kim to not be terminated, among other demands.

A recording of that meeting shows a chorus of staffers yelling at board chair Aisah Gayle, who also works as the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s vice-president of operations, and demanding she resign. Since then, staffers have rallied with signs outside CPACS’ main office buildings to continue to demand Gayle’s and other board members’ resignation. They have described Gayle’s behavior and leadership as “unhinged.”

Gayle has not responded to the AJC’s requests for comments. Another board member, Michelle Ferreyra, took an AJC reporter’s contact information, and said a communications professional would be in touch. Ferreyra was the property manager of a property owned by Chaiwon Kim’s family and leased to CPACS, according to the internal investigation

“Ferreyra initially agreed to resign from the Board when confronted with the conflict of interest, but later rescinded that offer,” the report reads.

In a statement published Tuesday, the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce said its executive committee and leadership team had placed Gayle on administrative leave.

“The GHCC sends our best wishes to the CPACS community, and hopes it continues to deliver the essential services that make our communities resilient and stronger for many years to come,” the statement reads.

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