Peace House near Bush ranch hit by strife

/ Source: The Associated Press

A group that has sponsored highly visible war protests in President Bush's adopted hometown has been anything but peaceful, with accusations of money mismanagement, threats of court action and some members leaving.

A former member who has rights to the group's name is threatening legal action because the Crawford Peace House continues to operate.

Sara L. Oliver and others also want a state investigation as to why only $14,700 is now in the group's bank account, saying tens of thousands of dollars donated during Cindy Sheehan's high-profile 2005 war protest are unaccounted for.

"There are people who have said, 'Don't say anything because you'll hurt the peace movement,'" Oliver said. "But if the peace movement isn't pure and transparent and holy as it can be at its heart, then it's just like George Bush: lying, thieving, conniving, backstabbing bastards."

John Wolf, who co-founded the Crawford Peace House in 2003 in a house near downtown, denied allegations of wrongdoing. He said the claims were by only a few people and would not hurt the work of the house, which is planning a fourth anniversary celebration Sunday.

Wolf: Most of $285,000 spent
The Crawford Peace House bank account had only $3 in early August 2005, but Sheehan's monthlong vigil beside the road leading to Bush's ranch brought thousands of people and donations from across the country.

Wolf said the Peace House has an accountant and has kept diligent records, which soon will be posted on its Web site. He said most of the $285,000 raised in 2005 was spent on food, van and bus rentals, gas and a large tent for the rallies at several events.

"All of this money was given to us to take care of people who came here, and that's what we did," Wolf said Friday. "If somebody has fantasies, I can't affect that."

Wolf said he plans to turn in the franchise tax report next week — nearly a year late — to the Texas Comptroller's Office to regain the Peace House's recently lost corporate charter.

Losing a corporate charter means the board members are liable for any debts the group might owe, according to the Comptroller's Office.

The report was not filed sooner because the house's volunteer director was overwhelmed with other tasks, Wolf said.

Houses divided
He also said the Texas Secretary of State's Office made a mistake last month in allowing Oliver to file documents forming a nonprofit corporation called the Crawford Peace House.

Wolf said the Crawford Peace House he co-founded still exists as an unincorporated entity, as well as a religious group, so Oliver is violating state statutes that prevent an organization from having the same or similar name as an existing one.

The Secretary of State's Office was closed Friday for the Easter holiday.

Oliver, who said she left the group in 2005 after encountering hostility when she tried to help secure grants for the group, said she does not want to form a counter group. But she said she would allow some current members to use the name, as long as the house director and leaders account for the money and resign.

Sheehan, whose name is listed on the 2005 franchise tax report as a Crawford Peace House board member, said Friday she has never been consulted about its financial matters and knew nothing about the current situation.

Sheehan said the matter would not hurt the peace movement or the weekend's activities coinciding with Bush's weekend ranch visit.