Late in 2010, Central Asia Institute's board of directors began looking into questions about potential financial conflicts between the Bozeman-based nonprofit organization and its founder Greg Mortenson, according to a statement issued by the board Saturday.
Many of those same questions - which revolve around whether financial arrangements between Mortenson and CAI benefit him as an individual more than they benefit the organization -- are now being raised by producers of the CBS News "60 Minutes," for a segment expected to air tonight.
The board's recently concluded legal investigation found that the money CAI spends promoting and distributing copies of Mortenson's books - "Three Cups of Tea" and "Stones Into Schools" -- and covering his travel expenses when he is on the road promoting CAI's work is both legal and appropriate.
"Greg's speeches, books and public appearances are the primary means of educating the American people on behalf of the institute and he is CAI's principal fundraiser," the statement said. "He devotes his time and his life to this important work. CAI's activities and Greg's are closely intertwined. ... (And) CAI appropriately receives a greater benefit from Greg's activities than Greg does himself."
Since it was created in 1996, CAI's mission has been to promote education, especially for girls, in remote areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan, the statement noted. CAI's approach has always been to work closely with local communities, helping them build and operate schools, women's vocational centers, libraries and other educational resources.
That mission also includes "educating the American and international public about the need to promote peace through education," the statement said.
"Through his work empowering communities in some of the most remote areas in the world, and through his successful books that share the stories of his experiences, Greg has accomplished the real and extraordinary work of bringing education to girls and boys in Pakistan and Afghanistan who otherwise would have no educational opportunity to enable them to help themselves and their communities," the board wrote.
"It would be truly tragic if the sensationalized allegations against him were to harm the future of this crucial work."
The board's statement did not address additional accusations about Mortenson's work and the veracity of details in "Three Cups of Tea" that were made in a story posted on the "60 Minutes" website Friday afternoon.
However, CAI's responses to the 16 questions "60 Minutes" asked Mortenson in an email late last week are posted on its website, ikat.org.