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East Tennessee Lions Eye Bank says for two years it mistakenly reported office manager as part-time employee

An email from the ETLEB's accountant said "the cost of filing an amended Form 990 for this one small change was determined to be unnecessary."

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — For the 2019-2020 fiscal year, the East Tennessee Lions Eye Bank listed its office manager as part-time on official Internal Revenue Service paperwork. 

Its Form 990 said Laura Gilleran worked 24 hours a week in that role with total compensation of $137,048.

Executive Director Valerie Stewart, who is Gilleran's mother, told 10News that those hours were incorrectly reported on the non-profit's filing. 

"Laura works 40 hours plus," she wrote in a text message. "Our CPA in writing has admitted to that mistake and will correct it this year."

10Investigates this month has reported on questions raised about Stewart's annual compensation during her tenure leading the eye bank as well as compensation for her daughter.

Stewart forwarded to WBIR an email sent by the non-profit's certified public accountant on April 28 about Gilleran's work status.

Credit: IRS
Data submitted to the IRS lists Laura Gilleran as the officer manager. It showed she received $137,048 in total compensation for a 24 hour/week role.

"After the [2020-2021] 990 was filed with the IRS the error was brought to my attention by Valerie, however, the cost of filing an amended Form 990 for this one small change was determined to be unnecessary," James Booher wrote. "I made a note in my file to update to 40 hours on the next Form 990 that is filed according to Valerie."

Credit: Submitted

RELATED: 10Investigates: East TN eye bank chief's compensation raises questions about what pay is proper

Stewart said, "no one noticed it until this year and that's why it's getting changed." 

A 10News review of accredited eye banks in the United States shows Gilleran's compensation is closer to what most eye bank CEOs, executive directors and presidents make.

Stewart makes much more than Gilleran. Her total compensation for 2019 was more than $450,000, records show.

ETLEB Board meeting minutes from October 28, 2021, show the personnel committee has formally selected Gilleran to replace Stewart upon her retirement.

"The motion carried unanimously," the minutes read. "Laura and Mark Gilleran joined the group where she wholeheartedly accepted the position being offered to her to take over as Executive Director when Valerie retire[s] in 2026."

Full text from Valerie Stewart 7/28:

Grace, yes we do have the email from our CPA. I will send it to you. We have taken action to correct any negative concerns and change is good. The board of ETLEB welcomes any questions and have specific committees to investigate all questions and concerns. And Brandon was asked to be on the committee. However, he refused. I have an email to prove I reached out to him too in May. He never responded. He never asks question he just Threatens and uses Accusations. ETLEB has a professional policy and procedure and it is followed by voting on changes needed after review from the committee. ETLEB does awesome work in this community and internationally. We are going forward with change and will continue to serve this community to give the gift of sight.

Full text from Valerie Stewart 7/26:

Grace, Laura works 40 hours plus. Our CPA in writing has admitted to that mistake and will correct it this year. Brandon already knew this information back in April. Also, ETLEB gives almost $200,000.00 a year back to the community. $35,000,00 to 3 different area play parks for Braille to be used on musical instruments for blind children. $15,000.00 to KAPA and about $15,000.00 to special services to help give the gift of sight. This year Brandon's county will receive $35,000.00 when we receive the invoice for an all inclusive playground. We gave over $180,000.00 in free or reduced tissue each year or whatever is needed to help people with their sight. We gave $55,000.00 to help get a van on the road to go to different area schools for children who need glasses. We bought cameras, readers, etc. Please be considerate of all the awesome gift of sights to this community, and all of Tennessee and the USA and internationally that ETLEB helps give. We are opened 24/7 and all year. We never close. Also, with guidance from a lawyer, The board signs a conflict of interest each year (all legal) about Eye On Transport and has each board member sign a conflict of interest each year. We have yearly audits with great reports. We are inspected by several different agencies with great results.

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