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Experts: County supervisor’s charity use violated state, federal laws

San Diego County Supervisor Bill Horn said he bought a charity decades ago for $25, called it the Basic Faith Foundation and used it to hold money from real estate deals.

Horn said he gave the interest to Christian missionaries in Mexico and South America.

inewsource dug into the Basic Faith Foundation and into Horn’s own description of how he used it. Five experts with national reputations in tax law and nonprofit management reviewed the transcript of inewsource’s interview with the supervisor, as well as the supporting documentation from state and federal agencies.

All reached the same conclusion: the way Horn used Basic Faith violated both state and federal laws, civilly and possibly criminally.

An audit of the North Lee County Water Association in Mississippi turned up widespread financial management problems, including violations of several state and federal laws, the Daily Journal (Tupelo, MS) reports.

The audit, which is likely “the most rigorous examination ever” of the nonprofit cooperative's financial records, comes on the heels of a $1.2 million loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Administration.

While copies of the audit are required to be available for public inspection, the water association did not comply with state law.

The association has been plagued with problems, according to the Daily Journal.

Rust-colored water and frequent boil notices have been part of North Lee’s water quality problems for years. In October 2011, all board members resigned amid allegations of misconduct and falsifying water reports. Former North Lee manager Dan Durham pleaded guilty in federal court in 2012 to falsifying the water reports and received probation.

Read the story here.

The Tampa Bay Times, in partnership with The Center for Investigative Reporting, has built an online tool to make charity research a little easier. Our “Charity Checker” website, for the first time, aggregates the ratings and reviews already offered by several of the nation’s most prominent watchdog organizations. With a simple search, you can see their results, all in one place, then click through to dig deeper into a charity through GuideStar, Charity Navigator, GreatNonprofits and the Better Business Bureau. The idea for Charity Checker grew out of our reporting on America’s Worst Charities, a yearlong investigation into charities that have chronically steered most of their donations to for-profit telemarketers. The full series can be found here: www.cironline.org/americasworstcharities or tampabay.com/charity.

Charities and other non-profits often try to keep their losses quiet to avoid spooking donors, but a Washington Post investigation by Joe Stephens and Mary Pat Flaherty used a new IRS tax return checkbox to find more than 1,000 organizations that reported significant diversions of assets. The Post’s online database is being used by news organizations around the country (and abroad) to report on charities in their area that were victimized.

Facing Foreclosure: Oklahoma's mortgage settlement program benefits attorneys | Tulsa World
"So far, the largest financial beneficiary of Oklahoma's mortgage settlement program is a young attorney who used a system of vouchers and possibly a family connection to acquire dozens of clients."

Shocking cost investigation: Utility middle men charge renters inflated prices | Columbus Dispatch
"A 10-month investigation by The Dispatch found that residents pay markups of 5 percent to 40 percent when their landlords enter into contracts with certain submeter companies. If the customer fails to pay, the companies sometimes resort to collection tactics that would be illegal for regulated utilities, including shutting off heat in winter and even eviction."

South Austin pastor lives lavishly while West Side project languishes | Chicago Tribune
“In a rolling investigation, Chicago Tribune reporters David Jackson and Gary Marx examine government's haphazard efforts to assist one of the city's hardest-hit neighborhoods. Tracing where the money goes, their latest installment how a politically-connected pastor lives in a lavish suburban mansion while some tenants in his apartment buildings endure substandard conditions and go without heat.”

New reports fuel debate of whether Lisa Steed arrested innocent drivers | Salt Lake Tribune
“This month, UHP provided The Tribune with more documents about Steed, including the Winward review and the internal affairs investigation undertaken before her firing last year. In the internal affairs investigation, UHP found prosecutors who had received complaints about the former trooper of the year, but some of those same prosecutors also praised Steed’s work.”

Facing lawsuits over deadly asbestos, paper giant launched secretive research program | The Center for Public Integrity
“Named in more than 60,000 legal claims, Atlanta-based Georgia-Pacific sought salvation in a secret research program it launched in hopes of exonerating its product as a carcinogen, court records obtained by the Center for Public Integrity show.”

Wisconsin Supreme Court justices tend to favor attorney donors | WisconsinWatch
“Justices have the option of recusing themselves from cases involving donor attorneys but have rarely stepped aside, remaining involved in nearly 98 percent of such cases, the Center found.”

Booming rental market makes it easier for neglectful landlords to ignore substandard living conditions | Austin American-Statesman
“A wide range of involved parties — City Council members, city Code Compliance officials, tenant advocates and real estate industry groups — agree that Austin’s real estate boom has made it possible for a subset of “bad actors” among rental property owners to ignore substandard conditions and tenants’ complaints. One indicator of the scope of the problem — code complaints and violations at rental properties — has exploded in recent years.”

$1,100 an hour? Part-time service at little agencies means big bucks and benefits for politicians | San Jose Mercury News
“Even the elected officials who benefit were surprised by the hefty hourly rates, which this newspaper calculated through an analysis of government meeting minutes and the Bay Area News Group's public salary database.”

Ivy Tech, DNR emails expose favors between officials, raunchy jokes, nude pictures | Indianapolis Star
“The emails — which featured jokes about erectile dysfunction and breast size, and pictures that compared naked women to various animals — appear to violate the spirit, if not the letter, of Ivy Tech’s sexual harassment policy. Yet they were allowed to continue for at least six months before administrators asked Walkup to cease sometime this year.”

Research stalls on dangers of military burn pits | Democrat and Chronicle
“Thousands of returning veterans and civilians are now attributing myriad symptoms — respiratory problems, neurological disorders, cancers and ALS — to exposure to the burn pits, which were located at dozens of bases throughout Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Dozens of Georgia children die despite state intervention | Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“Epic failures by Georgia’s child welfare system have given the state one of the nation’s highest rates of death by abuse and neglect, an investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows.”

Ted Cruz Failed To Disclose Ties To Caribbean Holding Company | Time Swampland
“Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz potentially violated ethics rules by failing to publicly disclose his financial relationship with a Caribbean-based holding company during the 2012 campaign, a review of financial disclosure and company documents by TIME shows.”

GW misrepresented admissions and financial aid policy for years | The GW Hatchet
George Washington University admitted publicly for the first time Friday that it puts hundreds of undergraduate applicants on its waitlist each year because they cannot pay GW's tuition.

“The Tampa Bay Times and The Center for Investigative Reporting spent a year identifying the 50 worst charities in America based on the money they paid to professional solicitation companies over the past decade. Copilevitz & Canter has represented nearly three-quarters of them, as well as most of their for-profit telemarketers and direct mail companies.”

Ryan Gabrielson of The Center for Investigative Reporting reports that "California regulators routinely have conducted cursory and indifferent investigations into suspected violence and misconduct committed by hundreds of nursing assistants and in-home health aides – putting the elderly, sick and disabled at risk over the past decade."

In two stories published yesterday, Gabrielson's examines how and why these cases are dismissed and details the case of an edlerly woman whose suspicious death was largely ignored by state regulators.

For community service and corrective classes, San Diego law enforcement has sent defendants to organizations like the Corrective Behavior Institute for community service. In doing so, it has "sent people who haven’t followed the rules to a nonprofit that hasn’t followed them either," according to an investigation by the Voice of San Diego, which found shoddy record keeping, financial red flags and poor internal oversight at the organization at the Corrective Behavior Institute.

“Six nonprofit groups arose on the Bering Sea shore, and they have invested mightily in ships, real estate and processing plants. Over two decades, the groups amassed a combined net worth of $785 million. But the results on the ground, in rural community and economic development, have been deeply uneven, and nonexistent for many people who still gaze out to the blinking lights of the factory ships and wonder what happened," reports Investigate West.

Investigative Newsource in San Diego reports on the North County Transit District, which was overhauled and largely outsourced four years ago with significant consequences. Newsource reports that the "the turnover among upper management at North County Transit District has cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and has, at times, put riders at risk."

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