Tri-Valley Community Foundation in deep debt, looking to close | June 15, 2012 | Pleasanton Weekly | |

Pleasanton Weekly

Cover Story - June 15, 2012

Tri-Valley Community Foundation in deep debt, looking to close

Audit uncovers $3 million owed by charitable organization

by Glenn Wohltmann

The Tri-Valley Community Foundation is more than $3 million in debt, and is looking to close and file liquidation bankruptcy by the end of June. It is also seeking criminal prosecution against its former president, David Rice.

"We owe probably $3 million-plus, everything included," said TVCF board Chairman Ron Hyde. "There's no 'there' there."

He added that he had been hopeful at first that the organization could survive.

"I was optimistic that we could pull it together," said Hyde, who stepped into the role of foundation president with the ouster of Rice, who was with the foundation from at least 2000 until he was fired earlier this year.

"When I first came here, I was able to cut about $600,000 in overhead the first week. As things grew grimmer, I became less convinced that we were going to survive," Hyde said. "By early May I was convinced that we weren't going to survive."

Hyde is recommending that the board opt for Chapter 7 liquidation bankruptcy at its next meeting.

"I believe they'll decide to dissolve the organization," he said.

Hyde said he's also contacted two inspectors with the Alameda County District Attorney's Office's consumer and environmental protection division, one of them a forensic analyst.

"We asked them to investigate. I believe there's enough evidence -- pending investigation -- for a criminal prosecution," said Hyde, a former Superior Court judge. "I cannot find any evidence that he took any money for himself. (However) there is a scenario that could raise the specter that kickbacks were involved."

Hyde said conditions were "ripe" for that to happen.

"I'm not saying that happened, I'm just saying there's a number of instances that could be possible. The skeleton seems to be there," he said.

The debt and closing of the Tri-Valley Community Foundation is troublesome enough, but Hyde said its end could also mean the end of a number of smaller charities.

He explained that the foundation is the umbrella organization for about 25 "mom and pop" charities with roughly $230,000 that was being held by the foundation.

"If we go under, they'll probably lose their 501(c)(3) status. I've been trying to find somebody to take them, but no one will take a 501(c)(3) without any money. There's a reason they don't have any money -- David spent it," he said. "It's sad that so many people could have been hurt by one person's actions."

Hyde said that Rice is now working for a nonprofit in Coppel, Texas. Repeated attempts to reach Rice have been unsuccessful.

Even without criminal action on the part of Rice, Hyde said the former president used the foundation as an ego-feeding proposition. He pointed to one situation involving Rice's Rotary Club as an example.

"I asked for a list of donations David made," Hyde said, explaining that most of the donations ranged from $2,000 to $5,000, with one exception -- a single $33,000 donation.

"Two weeks later, I get a call from the small Rotary club in town, Tri-Valley Rotary," Hyde said. He said TVCF records showed the foundation was holding $10,000 for that club, but the Tri-Valley Rotary's records showed it had $43,000 with TVCF.

"In short, Mr. Rice, in a moment of egotistical largess, pulled $33,000 from the little rotary club and gave it to his rotary (Pleasanton Rotary, which meets downtown) under the guise of an anonymous donor," said Hyde, who himself is a member of Pleasanton Rotary North. "I talked to a number of individuals that are in the leadership of the larger club. To a person, they said, 'The right thing to do is to return the money to the little rotary club.' Even in this pile of garbage, there is a shine of bright light."

Steve Brozosky, president of the Pleasanton Rotary Foundation -- a different entity from the Pleasanton Rotary Club -- said that's not a done deal. Brozosky explained there are legalities involved.

"They are completely different organizations. We are a legal 501(c)(3) and we are required by law to keep them separate entities," Brozosky said. "We are currently in discussions with the other club and the Tri-Valley Community Foundation."

No one knew about that $33,000 donation for five years, which, Hyde said, is problematic when it comes to filing insurance claims for the foundation's losses. He said it's unclear whether the TVCF should use the date of the loss or when the loss was discovered in its claim.

He said board members are protected from being sued personally, unlike a case in Los Angeles, where the director of a bankrupt charity is facing the seizure of her home.

"We have officers and directors insurance," Hyde said. "David Rice, that's a different story."

Both Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have asked for the return of the money donated by employees but spent elsewhere by Rice; Hyde said, "That's part of the claim."

An internal memo from Sandia said it had asked for an accounting of TVCF spending for the last four years.

"TVCF misapplied a portion of the contributions sent to it for distribution on behalf of Sandia employees," the Sandia memo said. "We do not yet know the extent of this problem, and we have asked TVCF for immediate clarification and documentation of the past four campaigns dating back to 2008."

Tax returns show a pattern of overspending on the part of the TVCF that began in fiscal year 2006-07, when it brought in nearly $1.36 million, but spent more than $1.6 million, drawing down existing assets. That's been a consistent pattern since, leading to a deficit of more than $172,000 in July 2010, the last year returns were available.

It was also recently disclosed that among the missing money is $243,000 held in trust for GWF Energy, which operates a power plant in Tracy.

That money was earmarked for organizations including Tracy Interfaith Ministries, McHenry House Family Shelter and Boys & Girls Clubs of Tracy. Renee Reece, the chairwoman of Tracy Interfaith, said the organization was counting on $18,000 this year.

"We are very sad that this happened all the way around to everybody," Reece said. "It will hurt, in this economy, the numbers (of people in need) continue to increase."

She said the money would have gone for food, for people who have had their power cut off, were in danger of losing their apartments, and even for funerals.

Hyde said he's working on sorting that out now.

"I just had lunch with the owner of GWF in Tracy and fully explained what happened," he said.

GWF, Sandia and Lawrence Livermore are among the 17 or so insurance claims being made by the TVCF that remain in limbo, Hyde said. That's not counting at least $65,000 in outstanding promises that were made by Rice, which include the Pleasanton school district, Open Heart Kitchen, and $5,000 promised to the Rotary Club of Pleasanton for its Father's Day Spirit Run.

Brozosky said the club hoped for, but didn't bank on, that $5,000.

"We've gotten it for years. Sometimes it's come through, sometimes it hasn't," he said, adding that Rice sometimes made commitments but didn't follow though with the money -- part of the reason, Brozosky said, for Rice's $33,000 "anonymous" donation.

Glen Sparks, the school district's director of adult education, said Rice pledged $50,000 on behalf of the TVCF in the fall of 2001.

"We received $25,000, but unfortunately did not receive the rest of it," Sparks said.

Problems with the TVCF's spending came to light when the board switched auditors, which Hyde said led to a request for a forensic -- deep -- audit.

"It appeared that money was being spent without board approval or board knowledge. It was areas like fund-raising. ... They weren't line items like they were meant to be," he said, explaining that Rice had the power to write checks without a cosigner. In many other organizations, two signers are required as a balance. "I think it's a community tragedy that this happened, and the whole board feels bad that we were on the watch and couldn't see what was happening. We were given glowing details about what was going on.

"It's sad that so many people could have been hurt by one person's actions. We had no clue during the annual audits and our bookkeeper going through accounts."

The Pleasanton Weekly's Holiday Fund was among those working with the TVCF, but donations made to the Weekly's fund were tracked in-house and donors were named every week in the newspaper. Checks cut to cover charities included in the Holiday Fund were among the last issued by the foundation.

Hyde said he's actively working on shutting down the foundation by the end of the month in anticipation of a Chapter 7 vote by the board.

"I'm working on a closing list, what's to be done, who needs to be notified, pulling together files to try to figure out what the heck happened and how," Hyde said.


There are no comments yet for this post