116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — An internal review of accounting records for Iowa City Pride showed “many unauthorized transactions” from May to November of last year, totaling more than $30,000, according to court documents.
Members of the LGBTQ group were notified last fall of a bounced payment to a staging vendor, which prompted the review of accounting records, according to a search warrant application filed by Iowa City police. The application was filed by police to search property of Anthony Sivanthaphanith, the board’s president at the time and interim treasurer.
The court records show police seized Sivanthaphanith’s cellphone Jan. 24. Sivanthaphanith was also interviewed by detectives.
Sivanthaphanith said he made “purchases that he was not authorized to make” and “estimated he made around $8,000 in purchases,” according to the search warrant application.
Sivanthaphanith, who did not return requests for comment Monday, has not been charged.
A police call for service shows a theft was reported on Dec. 2, 2021, at 13 S. Linn St., which is the location of Studio 13, Yacht Club and Joystick Comedy Arcade.
Iowa City police spokesman Lee Hermiston said the reported theft remains under investigation, and the department can’t discuss details of an open investigation.
Sivanthaphanith served as president of Iowa City Pride from fall 2019 to December 2021, according to the Iowa City Press-Citizen, which first reported on the missing funds. Before that, he was on the organization’s board for eight years.
The treasurer of Iowa City Pride stepped down in March 2021. Sivanthaphanith, who was president at the time, offered to take over treasurer duties until elections occurred in the fall, according to the search warrant application.
Sivanthaphanith was issued a debit card linked to the Iowa City Pride checking account in May 2021, according to court documents. Documents say it was standard procedure that the president and treasurer were issued debit cards, and any expenditures for the organization to be approved by its board of directors.
Sivanthaphanith ordered checks in his own name using the Iowa City Pride bank account without authorization, according to the documents.
The transactions — which were not previously approved by the organization — occurred in at least seven cities, including Nashville, St. Louis, Minneapolis and Cedar Rapids.
“Transactions for hotels, gas, food, airlines, entertainment, retail, and even personal bills were common,” according to the search warrant application.
Iowa City Pride members said they found Sivanthaphanith’s Facebook posts indicated he was visiting the locations where transactions occurred, according to documents. Dates of the purchases and posts aligned and “indicate that he was taking road trips and making the unauthorized purchases,” according to the search warrant application.
Iowa City Pride issued a statement on its Facebook page Monday.
“The Iowa City Pride Board takes this matter very seriously,” the statement said. “The Iowa City Police Department is investigating an embezzlement by a former board member. The member has been removed from their position. The amount of money in question, is not yet fully known.”
In its statement, Iowa City Pride said the board “took swift action” to notify the authorities after discovering the discrepancies.
“Steps have been taken to ensure integrity moving forward,” the statement said.
On Dec. 14, 2021, Iowa City Pride posted on Facebook the board “has faced an unexpected need to restructure our leadership.” The board elected Jewell Amos as interim president. Ricardo Rangel Jr. and Jason Zeman were elected as co-interim treasurers.
The group is set to hold an Iowa City Pride Festival on June 18, including a parade and vendors at the downtown Pedestrian Mall.
Emily Andersen of The Gazette contributed to this report.
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