The Oklahoma Beef Council needed Clara Peller.
Remember Peller? In the 1980s fast-food commercials, Peller portrayed an old lady demanding more meat and a Wendys hamburger. The feisty senior bleated, Wheres the beef?! and launched a nationwide pop culture catchphrase that morphed into the existential question of an entire generation.
She died in 1987 (rest her soul), but if Peller was to stand today in front of Oklahoma Beef Councils counter, were confident she would ask, Wheres the money?!
After all, the state board collects dollars lots of them. Not from Wendys customers, obviously, but from farmers and ranchers. Under the 1985 Farm Bill, each time a person sells a cow, a $1-a-head fee is sent to the Oklahoma Beef Council under the Beef Checkoff program, which funds marketing and research for the cattle industry. Half stays with the council and half goes to the federal Cattlemens Beef Board. (The group is responsible for the Beef. Its Whats For Dinner commercials. Isnt beef marketing the best?)
This fall, a federal civil lawsuit filed against a former council employee alleged Oklahoma Beef Councils coffers were short. The lawsuit seeks to recover the funds from former accounting and compliance manager Melissa Morton, who allegedly embezzled the cash, according to StateImpact Oklahoma.
Say it with us: Wheres the money?!
We at Chicken-Fried News have written a time or two about embezzlement cases, but we are scratching our heads about this one. Through joint reporting, StateImpact and Harvest Public Media learned the feds are now investigating a council employees alleged of embezzlement of $2.6 million.
Say it again: Wheres the money?!
According to StateImpact, Oklahoma Beef Council discovered the embezzlement just six months ago, but it might have started with forged checks as early as 2009. The forged checks continued. In fact, five years later, the compliance manager allegedly embezzled more than $315,000, which is close to 9 percent of the organizations annual revenue, StateImpact reported.
Ah, yes; theres Peller shouting, Wheres the money?!
We sure hope the U.S. attorneys office in Oklahoma City gets to the bottom of this. If guilty, we are either dealing with a very bold and daring thief or a large-scale conspiracy driven by opponents of the Beef Checkoff program.
Unlike real life (well, sort of), in which Peller found the beef in that 1985 commercial, were not as confident she would be handed a big pile of that missing dough.
Print headline: Wheres the money?