By Libby Hobbs
On July 26, Center for Pan Asian Community Services (CPACS ) staff publicly accused corruption practices against its Board of Directors. Their number one demand: “Do NOT remove/terminate Jung Ha Kim as CEO of CPACS.”
Nine days later, CEO Kim was hand delivered a letter terminating her position, effective immediately.
In August of 2021, now former CEO Jung Ha Kim submitted evidence of program funding mismanagement by the former CEO of CPACS, Chaiwon Kim, to the Board. This kickstarted the legal journey that would later reveal Chaiwon’s nepotism, conflicts of interest, and improper use of grant funds.
Investigative Report Findings
After stepping down from her position of CPACS CEO, Chaiwon Kim instituted a co-CEO style of management. Jung Ha Kim was CEO of CPACS Main and Chaiwon Kim was CEO of CPACS Cosmo, the Federally Qualified Health Center.
Nepotism and favoritism in compensation, lease agreements that violated conflict of interest policy, and improperly used grant funds on multiple purchases were revealed by the investigation report to all happen when Chaiwon Kim held some manner of CEO position.
When CEO Jung Ha Kim brought attention to this and also the dysfunctional co-CEO system one year ago, Jessica Cino from Krevolin & Horst was later contacted by a member of the Board of Directors in February of 2022 to conduct an internal investigation.
CEO Chaiwon Kim showed resistance to the investigation announcement almost immediately by saying she “strongly recommend[ed] against” employee participation and called it an “unsolicited witch hunt” in emails. She ultimately agreed to be interviewed.
Chaiwon Kim violated Nepotism Policy by hiring her son, Klyde Kim, to be the HR Director. He received a 20.86% pay increase on November 1, 2018, a 11.67% increase one year later, and a 13.43% increase two years later.
According to employees, the typical pay increase was 5%.
Furthermore, significant pay raises were given to Alexis Nkusi and Keun Kim, those labeled as “most loyal” to Chaiwon Kim. Nksui received a 36% pay increase on November 1, 2021, and Keun Kim received a 20.45% increase on July 1, 2021.
Chaiwon Kim violated conflict of interest policy according to the HRSA compliance manual, Cosmo’s standard of conduct, the Employee Handbook, and the Bylaws when CPACS leased a property that was owned by her husband, Dr. Sun H. Kim, in 2013.
The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) is an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
CPACS Board member, Michelle Ferreyra, is a realtor for Bogo World. In 2013, they were also the property manager of “Cosmo Building G.” While Ferreyra originally agreed to resign from the Board when confronted about the conflict of interest, they later rescinded the offer.
In addition to Building G, four other lease agreements violated conflict of interest policy. Two were between CPACS and Bogo World LLC and the remaining two were leased with the Landlord being Sun H. Kim, Chaiwon Kim’s late husband.
CPACS paid $785,251 in rent for the buildings from February of 2013 to December of 2021 and over $400,000 on construction costs as of mid-2020, with an additional $400,000 more since.
Chaiwon Kim violated CPACS’ internal fraud policy by engaging in multiple instances of financial misconduct. The report notes that these instances may also violate HRSA regulations, individual grant regulations, and even criminal law.
With HRSA COVID-19 assigned funding, Keun Kim initiated purchases of two vehicles and one food transport van. Chaiwon Kim approved these purchases and signed the checks herself after not following the correct buying procedures and not receiving approval from the Board.
Likewise, two vehicles were purchased by CPACS with HRSA money but were not being used at Cosmo, the HRSA-funded entity.
Additionally, credit card receipts show the Chief Finance Officer (CFO), Cappel Sookdeo, making purchases for a customer named BCD Tax, which is his own personal business.
Finally, an employee alleged that CPACS would fraudulently certify individuals had completed their community service hours with the organization in exchange for cash. CPACS stopped this practice following February 2021, when another non-profit faced criminal charges for similar activity.
Since CEO Chaiwon Kim “retired,” both Jung Ha Kim and Chaiwon Kim no longer work at CPACS as of August 5, 2022.
CPACS Staff and Board Response
With Jung Ha Kim representing CPACS Main and Chaiwon Kim representing CPACS Cosmo, a tense division has been formed between the two work environments.
“We don't know what's going to happen the next minute … I was working one day and all of a sudden, the other side’s IT hacked into our mainframe and locked our IT out of our admin,” an anonymous source said.
The tense split can also be felt within the Board of Directors. Board member, Louis Tseng, began asking questions around April of 2022. That July, he was voted off the Board of Directors, along with Kap Kim.
“Ish [said] I'm not a good fit … it is so vague, what have I done? I’m simply asking the questions that need to be asked,” Tseng said.
Aisah (Ish) Gayle was acting Board Chair but assumed the role of Board Chair in July. In addition to pushing for the two dissenting Board members’ removal, Gayle also hired an interim CEO on July 5, 2022 without informing Board member Wooiyi Yin.
Yin vocalized struggles with communication from the Board Chair, including being sent confirmation of a Board meetings occurrence only four minutes before the call began.
Furthermore, Yin and Tseng say they voted against a matter in a Board meeting but later, according to Board minutes, the matter was unanimously passed.
“I'm sure if this is not enough to get our way, there's definitely more things to come out. I also want to state that there are Board members who have been getting paid from CPACS grants,” an anonymous source said.
Digital receipts show money from CPACS grant funds being paid to member[s] on the Board of Directors.
The Board of Directors also recently lost two more members, Nguyen (Nick) H. Tu and Norma Zúñiga-Cardoza. Both resigned.
The term of membership is a maximum of two three year terms, according to the Bylaws. However, the Bylaws were revised in 2017 to say term membership has an option to “renew without a limit.” Some interpret this to mean that a Board member cannot be denied that second three year term while others see this as having unlimited terms.
“Every one of them [who is] voting to cover it up, all of them are more than eight or ten years,” Tseng said.
Even though Chaiwon Kim and Jung Ha Kim are no longer at CPACS, the legacy of division and corruption continues to thrive.
“A lot of people [are] telling me that I'm killing CPACS by doing this, but we're not killing it. We're trying to save CPACS,” Yin said.