The finance manager for Metro’s largest charity burst into flames last night when explaining the latest financial figures to the Board of Directors.
Wendy Turnip, 59, had just started to explain why the Metro Community Trust had one of the highest expense ratios of any charity of its kind in the US when smoke began to appear from her ears.
“She was going over the numbers and I smelled something,” said Board Chair Dibble Brewer. “That’s when I saw the smoke. First it was gray, then it turned black.”
Witnesses say that when Turnip began to compare the Foundation to other foundations in the tri-state area part of her sleeve burst into flame. Turnip carried on oblivious, until one of the board members used a nearby fire extinguisher to douse her.
The presentation set off the fire alarms in the building. Firefighters arrived a few minutes later and took a hose to Turnip, who was still trying to finish her presentation.
“When we got there we saw this smoking, burning accountant trying to explain why advertising expenses were so high. We had to hose her down,” said Fire Captain Wes Snidely. “This happens all the time at local charities. We were called to a foundation just last week as a precaution when their accountant made their year-end report.”
Turnip was unharmed, but her clothing was ruined and her hair was slightly singed. Foundation officials say she will likely recover but only after months of therapy.
Experts say charity finance leaders burst into flames all the time. It is likely the cause of poor financial standards and lack of oversight.
“Most US charities have accountants who don’t actually speak English. Most financial committees of charity boards of directors haven’t got a clue what these people say, but they just agree with them,” said Dr. Bob Peacock, a scientist at the University of Northern South Dakota who has studied charity accounting.
“The angst that charity financial management creates is a slow fuse that burns and burns, and in some cases finally erupts into flames. There’s nothing that can be done except wrap them in fire retardant materials and have a bucket of water standing by.”
Brewer says Board members have been reluctant to ask for more information on the Foundation’s finances lest Turnip catches on fire again.
“She’s the only one who understand our finances. But I’m not about to turn her into a human torch just too find out if we’re actually paying the bills. That would be cruel.”