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Senators Want Newtown Donations Audit

UPDATE (Monday, July 22, 2013): The Newtown Bee has been provided with a copy of the letter sent from Senators Blumenthal and Murphy to Dr Charles Herrick and The Newtown Sandy Hook Foundation. The body of that letter has been added at the end of this story.

NEW HAVEN (AP) — Connecticut’s U.S. senators called Friday for an independent audit of more than $11 million in donations received in response to the Newtown school shooting to determine what donors wanted done with the money.

The Newtown-Sandy Hook Community Foundation released a plan this week to give $7.7 million to the families and survivors and to have committees decide on uses for the rest of the money. A spokesman said decisions on how to spend the money were based on donor intent and the foundation tried to balance short-term and long-term needs.

Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy wrote a letter calling for the foundation and United Way of Western Connecticut, which helped raised the money, to implement an audit to determine how to divide the money based on donor intent.

They said they appreciate the complexity of the issue and the good intentions of those who worked with the foundation, but share concerns that the determination that 70 percent of the money was meant to benefit victims’ families was not reached through a verifiable, comprehensive analysis of contributions.

‘‘An independent, third-party audit is necessary to maintain trust and credibility,’’ the senators wrote in the letter, which was obtained by The Associated Press. ‘‘We understand the difficult task of determining the proper allocation of these charitable funds. Critical conclusions such as concerning donor intent must be more transparent and accountable.’’

Patrick Kinney, the foundation spokesman, said he had not seen the letter and could not comment on it. But prospective donors were told the fund was undesignated, meaning it could be used for broader purposes, Kinney added. He has said the remaining money will be used for services to support the needs of all those affected by the shooting, which doesn’t exclude anyone who has already received money.

At a July 11 public hearing, some questioned the process for arriving at the $7.7 million for the families and why all the money wasn’t going to the victims. Some victims’ families have said dealing with questions over how to distribute the money has caused them more pain.

Gov Dannel P. Malloy weighed in with a letter last week expressing frustration with the process and calling for an independent party to handle the remaining nearly $4 million in donations. Malloy said he hopes families are not precluded from receiving additional money.

Mr Kinney countered that the fund was created to help those most affected by the shooting, including families, surviving students and first responders, and is best managed by local people who understand their long-term needs.

Under the plan released this week, families of the 26 children and educators killed at Sandy Hook School on December 14,2 012, will receive $281,000 each. The families of 12 surviving children who witnessed the shooting will each receive $20,000. Two staff members who were wounded will receive $75,000 each.

The Letter

Following is the body of the letter, dated July 19, 2013, from Senator Richard Blumenthal and Senator Christopher S. Murphy, to Dr Charles Herrick, The Newtown Sandy Hook Foundation.

Dear Dr Herrick,

We write to urge you and the United Way of Western Connecticut (UWWC) to implement a complete independent audit of the donations received by the UWWC to clearly determine the division of such funds based on contributor content. The audit, under a separate third party administrator, should do a full accounting and provide public comment through a hearing.

We greatly appreciate the complexities and challenges of determinding donor intent and properly distributing such charitable funds and we wish to acknowledge the good intentions of all who have worked with the Sandy Hook Foundation.

As you are aware, a number of members of the Newtown community have expressed concern that the determination by UUWC that 70 percent of the donations were meant to benefit the victims’ families was not reached through a verifiable, comprehensive analysis of specific contributions. We share that concern. We are aware that the Office of the Attorney General reviewed the UUWC’s process but the office did not conduct a full audit. It reviewed only approximately 3 percent of the donations.

An independent third party audit is necessary to maintain trust and credibility. This audit would consist of an allocation of the donations based on contributor intent. Such audit will necessarily require the use of an attorney knowledgeable in charities law to interpret donor intent where such intent is not clear from the documentation. Once the audit is complete, there should be a public meeting where the results of such audit are discussed and there is an opportunity for public comment.

We understand the difficult talk of determining the proper allocation of these charitable funds. Critical conclusinos such as concerning donor intent must be more transparent and accountable.

Thank you for your commitment and dedication to this important effort and to the people of the Newtown community. We look forward to your favorable response.

Sincerely,

Richard Blumenthal

United States Senate

Christopher S. Murphy

United States Senate

Comments

Board Members Drawing a Salary?

I heard someone say that the board members of the Newtown-Sandy Hook Community Foundation are taking a yearly salary/compensation from the fund. This may be just one of the many rumors going around. I'm not sure if this is true or not, but it is a question that needs to be asked of the board members, and should be a part of the official inquiry.

I know that neither I, nor anyone I know that gave money to the fund, intended it to wind up in the pocket of a board member. I intended it to go towards directly affected family members.

If this rumor turns out to be true, every single member of the board needs to resign, return any funds already drawn for a salary/compensation, and come under a formal investigation.

Rumors

Board members of the Newtown Sandy Hook Community Foundation are serving without any compensation. These members of our community have volunteered their time and are serving the best they can. Additionally, the United Way, when they were involved prior to the NSHCF acquiring its 501(c)(3) status, took none of its customary administrative fees. As we are all aware, there is no handbook on what to do after a tragedy of this magnitude strikes a town.

It is a shame and unseemly that people perpetuate rumors that only serve to agitate and divide our community.

The CT Atty. General has already been involved and his findings are public record. It was also easy to find the following link to the Foundation's website that has more pertinent information on it: http://www.nshcf.org.

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