It's been more than six months since the Rhode Island state police began its investigation into the Institute for International Sport's finances and the future continues to be unclear for the once well-respected nonprofit.
The institute, which was founded in 1986, calls two buildings on the University of Rhode Island campus home. It runs programs for teenagers around the world, including last year's World Scholar-Athlete Games and World Youth Peace Summit in West Hartford. West Hartford resident Daniel Doyle Jr. is its executive director.
Last winter, the Courant reported that the institute was facing mounting debt and was dealing with failed real estate ventures, a government audit and a Rhode Island state police investigation.
State police began their investigation in February after a Rhode Island lawmaker forwarded the department a report regarding a state audit. The report said the institute could not show how it spent a $575,000 grant it received from the state.
Tuesday, State Police Col. Steven O'Donnell said his department is moving forward with the investigation and making progress.
But as police continue their lengthy investigation, there are questions regarding the institute's future.
Most of the institute's comments regarding its situation have come in the form of press releases issued last winter by the RDW Group, a Rhode Island public relations firm owned by Doyle's brother.
The RDW Group no longer represents the institute. It parted ways with Doyle and the institute shortly after it was discovered that at least two press releases contained statements made by Michael Healy, of Ireland. Healy said he did not make any of the statements attributed to him, and the RDW Group later issued a statement saying that Healy's statements appeared to be an error and said it was the information the firm was provided with at the time
One of the releases in question said the institute expected to leave its home on the University of Rhode Island campus by Sept. 1. The statements were attributed to Healy, but Doyle also told the Courant in an interview last winter that the institute would leave its Rhode Island location and sell its two buildings on the URI campus to raise cash to help pay down its debt.
In addition, Doyle said the institute will complete construction on its second building — the one that was the subject of the Rhode Island audit — before leaving the state.
URI spokeswoman Linda Acciardo said this week that there are no new developments when it comes to the institute's relationship with the university.
Sept. 1 is Saturday, and the institute has still not revealed its plans for the future. It is unclear if the institute has completed its construction project.
"The Institute for International Sport remains active and expects that an announcement regarding the continuation of its mission will be made shortly," said institute spokeswoman Liz White, who works for the Rhode Island-based public relations firm, Advocacy Solutions.
The only obvious sign of life for the institute has been the filing of its annual report with the Rhode Island secretary of state's office. The report was filed June 28 and includes the names of two new members of the board of directors.
Jennifer Pacelli, of Oakland, Calif.,and Mark Epstein, of Mount Pleasant, S.C., are now on the board. They join three others: Walter O'Malley, of Stow, Mass., Rod Steier, who lives in West Hartford and works as vice president of Duo-Fast Northeast in East Hartford, and Tim Flaherty, of Liberty Corner, N.J.
Pacelli and Epstein join the board of directors after several people, including Healy and former Hasbro CEO Alan Hassenfeld, said that they never served on the nonprofit's board of directors despite being listed on institute documents as having been board members. Both Hassenfeld and Healy have also questioned the validity of signatures that appear on official institute documents.
Pacelli couldn't be reached for comment, but Epstein says he joined the board because he believes in the institute's mission.
"I feel there has been far too much controversy," he said in a prepared statement. "My focus as a board member is to try and help continue the great work that can still be accomplished."
Those like Epstein and former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, a Rhode Island Democrat who helped to secure federal funding for the institute over the years, hope the institute's mission to foster world peace through sports and the arts can live on despite the controversy.
Kennedy, who was in Connecticut in late June to campaign for former congressional candidate Dan Roberti, called the institute's situation a "disaster." He also called Doyle a "fraud" and said the institute was "obviously mismanaged."
"Tragically, a great cause got hijacked," said Kennedy. "…You couldn't have judged from afar how it was going to go."