Employees of the embattled civil rights group ACORN did not break state laws but acted inappropriately in videotapes secretly made by conservative activists showing members of the group apparently giving advice on how to operate a prostitution ring, according to a just-concluded investigation by Attorney General Jerry Brown's office.
The investigation, which was requested by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, also found that ACORN employees in California committed "likely violations" of state law by throwing away confidential records, failing to file a tax return in 2007 and committing four possible instances of voter registration fraud in 2008 in San Diego.
Brown's office referred those possible violations to the district attorneys in the counties where the incidents occurred, spokeswoman Christine Gasparac said.
"A few ACORN members exhibited terrible judgment and highly inappropriate behavior in videotapes obtained in the investigation," Brown said in a news release. "But they didn't commit prosecutable crimes in California."
ACORN, which stands for Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, closed all of its offices nationwide as of Thursday, said Amy Schur, former lead organizer for ACORN in California.
Many of the organization's employees statewide are working at another nonprofit group called ACCE, or Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, which runs eight offices statewide, including three in physical spaces ACORN had used, Schur said.
Schur, who is ACCE's executive director, said ACORN's national leadership was responsible for many of the lapses cited in the report but added that the California employees also shared some blame.
"I'm not saying we were perfect," she said. "But we're so determined to successfully, as ACCE, advance the interests of low- and moderate-income people of California, we are taking great pains and spending time and investing resources in getting top-level assistance in staff training."
Brown's report warns, however, that ACCE is "run by the same people, raising concerns about its ability to cure the defects in the organization."
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