The LGBTQA local organization known as the Chicago Metropolitan Sports Association (CMSA) filed a five-count lawsuit May 4 in the Circuit Court of Cook County seeking damages and restitution from the former board treasurer Michael O. Rice II for fraud and misappropriation of funds.
Rice served as CMSA's treasurer for eight years until July 31, 2020, when he was not re-elected to the board.
According to the complaint, during Rice's time as treasurer he engaged in a pattern of misappropriation and fraud, issuing checks to himself, inventing false justifications for the checks, cashing the checks, and concealing his activities from the board of directors and officers. The lawsuit also says Rice acted intentionally, willfully and maliciously in flagrant breach of his fiduciary responsibilities to CMSA.
Also among the allegations are charges that Rice undertook a two-week campaign between July 21 and Aug. 3, 2020 to alter hundreds of fraudulent checks in CMSA's accounting system to conceal his activities, and that he worked to delay a formal audit of CMSA as recently as last year. The amount of suspect checks and transactions identified so far in the investigation totals more than $160,000.
CMSA is asking the court to award damages in the full amount of all misappropriated funds, plus punitive damages and the cost of the lawsuit.
CMSA also intends to cooperate fully with law enforcement, and its legal counsel will be providing a copy of the lawsuit and additional supporting details to the office of Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx. The organization has also suspended Rice's membership, removing him from his role as softball commissioner and prohibiting him from participating in any CMSA leagues or activities pending further disciplinary action as the investigation proceeds. Revocation of Rice's membership requires a hearing and a board vote.
CMSA is continuing an active investigation that is being directed by an independent committee of board members. Said committee is composed entirely of members whose tenure did not overlap with Rice's time on the board, and the group includes board members Michael Richardson, Kyle Palmer, Jeremiah Stevens and Jason Topping.
"This discovery was shocking and deeply disappointing to us all," said CMSA Board President Lindsay Frounfelkner in a statement. "Once the auditor's review indicated a high likelihood of misconduct, our Board immediately enlisted legal counsel to further investigate and to take action on behalf of CMSA's members. We pledge to do all we can to seek restitution for our not-for-profit organization."
"We have a caring, volunteer board that is working to serve our members and to make the Association stronger during this challenge," added Stevens. "The board is actively conducting policy and operations reviews to help prevent something like this from happening again."
CMSA's mission is to provide a safe place for LGBTQ+ individuals and their allies to stay active and enjoy sports together in a welcoming and inclusive environment. Founded in 1979, CMSA is the largest not-for-profit LGBTQ+ sports organization in the Midwest.
Windy City Times reached out to Rice for a response. However, he shut down communications on his Facebook page.