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Youth
 
Millennium March Missing Proceeds
'Someone simply walked off with the money' says lawyer for the March

THE FBI has launched an investigation into allegations that somebody may have walked off with the proceeds of the Millennium March on Washington April 27-30.

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March organizers - a consortium of US not-for-profit rights and lobby groups led by the Human Rights Campaign - had contracted with a private for-profit company called Millennium Productions to stage the week-end's events.  Sixty-five percent of the proceeds were to be forwarded to the organizers who had formed a committee called Millennium March to oversee the production.

But now the staging company Millennium Productions can't pay.  It says it's the victim.

"We were robbed of half a million upwards, perhaps $750,000," Jose Ucles, a director of the company, told the Washington Post.  "It had to be someone who knew us, and that is the sad part," he added.

The 2-3 years of planning for the week-end's massive series of events - which included the march, a festival, a stadium rock concert, and several other national level meetings and activities - has been mired in controversy regarding openness of the process.  It was criticized as having insufficient representation from organizations in the larger Community.  Allegations of organizers 'selling out' to private sector participants were made.  Boycotts of the March occurred.  And attendance over the week-end was less than expected.

Organizers reportedly said that the staging company had approached them at the end of the week-end to say payment would not be forthcoming.
 
 
An organization called 'Ad-Hoc Committee for an Open Process' was created.  It has accused March organizers of failing to disclose financial information for three years.

Bill Dobbs from that committee told the Post that Mr. Ucles of the staging company had resigned from his position with the organizers a few months before approaching them to run a for-profit festival.

The FBI confirmed that it has received allegations that the funds are missing.  "We have opened a preliminary investigation ... at this point, we have not independently confirmed any of it, including the amount of money or the people involved," said spokeswoman Susan Lloyd.

The organizers approached the FBI on the Tuesday following the March.  They reportedly said that the staging company had approached them at the end of the week-end to say payment would not be forthcoming.  "We think they owe us about $750,000," said Ann DeGroot, co-chair of the March Committee.

Without the proceeds organizers say they cannot repay companies from whom they borrowed money in order to have the March produced.

"It is fair to infer at this point that someone simply walked off with the money," Michael Boucher, a lawyer with the Washington-based firm of McKenna & Cuneo, who served as general counsel for the march, told the Post.

"The Millennium March owes a lot of money to various organizations," said Robin Stevens, a spokeswoman for Online Partners, the parent company of Gay.com and one of the event's sponsors.