Bankruptcy proceedings continue for local charity | March 22, 2013 | Pleasanton Weekly | |

Pleasanton Weekly

News - March 22, 2013

Bankruptcy proceedings continue for local charity

Tri-Valley Community Foundation owes creditors more than $2.7 million

by Glenn Wohltmann

The Tri-Valley Community Foundation still owes more than $2.7 million to creditors, bankruptcy court records show, with nearly half owed to one large contributor.

The charity filed for Chapter 7 liquidation bankruptcy in September after a deep audit revealed years of spending more than it brought in, and creditors have lined up in an attempt to recoup their losses.

Eric and Jennifer Wolford of Danville are owed nearly $1.5 million, and court records claim a fraud was committed by David Rice, then CEO of the TVCF.

"The Wolfords were informed and believe that their contributions were not used for charitable purposes, but were, in fact, used to benefit David Rice personally," court documents say.

Between December 2010 and March 2011, the Wolfords entered into a donor-advised fund (DAF) agreement with the foundation, giving $1.53 million to be distributed to specific charities named by the couple.

In 2012, when the Wolfords discovered about the TVCF's financial problems through an article in the Pleasanton Weekly, they contacted the foundation, court records show.

"Contrary to the accounting that had been provided to the Wolfords, the DAF had only $600,000,rather than the $1.533 million that was supposed to be there," court documents said. "The Wolfords demanded the balance remaining in the DAF be contributed to World Vision, one of the organizations identified by the Wolfords."

Ron Hyde, who stepped in as CEO when Rice was fired, originally agreed, "then said it could not be done."

While the Wolfords may be the single biggest loss, a family by the name of Mitchner is out more than $700,000, again for donor-advised funds that were apparently given to other charities. San Ramon Attorney Ken Begun is handling the case, and wondered what happened to the insurance, called director's and officer's insurance, that's supposed to be covering the losses.

"I think it's an asset of the bankrupt's estate. I haven't heard and that's a big issue. Something went wrong and it's time to make good on the promise," Begun said. "That is potential large asset for this estate. It's probably the only asset."

Hyde said last June that insurance would cover the foundation's losses.

"Nobody is going to lose any money," Hyde said at the time. "We can and will get things worked out to everyone's satisfaction."

Begun said he's been in touch with the bankruptcy trustee about the money but hasn't heard the status of the insurance claim.

As was the case with the Wolfords, court records show Rice provided accounting figures showing large balances, when in fact, there were none.

GWF Energy, which has set up a donor advised fund to help residents of Tracy, has claimed a loss of more than $270,000, with the funds, again, apparently directed elsewhere by Rice.

While those three donors make up the bulk of the claim against the foundation, smaller claims hit closer to home.

The Tri-Valley Rotarian Foundation filed a claim for $43,343; Hyde said last year that Rice gave the money to a different Rotary "in a moment of egotistical largess."

Open Heart Kitchen has filed a claim for $25,000, with $20,000 of that an unfunded matching grant.

A court document filed by OHK's Executive Director Linda McKeever notes there's no documentation for that because it was a verbal agreement made by Rice.

McKeever also noted that the kitchen never received an unspecified amount of money that was earmarked for it through contributions made by Sandia employees or through other donors.

Open Heart Kitchen, she said, "has never been provided an accounting of all employee giving campaigns."

The Livermore Homeless Refuge filed a claim for $15,000, and the Friends of Pleasanton Seniors filed a claim for $12,150, while Ana Villalobos of Cooking Matters, another Livermore-based nonprofit, filed a claim for $9,189 for time and out-of-pocket expenses.

There are also claims for debts owed by the TVCF, including a $54,803 claim from Hacienda Portfolio for the foundation's $3,366 per-month rent, and an outstanding bill for $9,855 from Tri-Valley Community Television. The charity also owes $954 in taxes to Alameda County.

In all there were 37 claims made, ranging from the large ones mentioned above to one for $45, one of a dozen or so claims made by individual Sandia employees.

Several charities apparently claimed they are owed money but didn't file claims, according to court documents. Those include Amador Valley Adult Education, which claims it is owed $25,000 and the Tri-Valley Housing Opportunity Center, which claims it is owed $11,000.

Kirsten Niemeyer, the TVCF's board secretary has been authorized to appear for the foundation; she could not be reached for comment.

No criminal charges have been filed against Rice. Hyde said last year that he didn't think the former CEO spent the money on himself, saying instead that Rice gave out money as an ego-feeding proposition.

Hyde also said last year that he'd 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."

Although the charity renewed its registry with the state in July, it has yet to file taxes for 2011-12. Previous tax returns showed a pattern of overspending that began in fiscal year 2006-07. That year, it brought in nearly $1.36 million, but spent more than $1.6 million, drawing down existing assets. That became a consistent pattern, leading to a deficit of more than $172,000 in July 2010, the last year returns were available.

Court documents said, however, that as of the bankruptcy filing, the TVCF has $520,066 in an investment account and $45,801 at Valley Community Bank in Pleasanton.


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