A 2nd life for the TriValley Community Foundation? We hope so | June 8, 2012 | Pleasanton Weekly | PleasantonWeekly.com |


Pleasanton Weekly

Opinion - June 8, 2012

A 2nd life for the TriValley Community Foundation? We hope so

As auditors continue to assess the financial shortages at the Tri-Valley Community Foundation, about the best news coming out of the investigation is that no one seems to have absconded with any money. That's not always been the case for Pleasanton nonprofits. The Tri-Valley Visitors & Convention Bureau lost thousands of dollars in receipts in the 1990s when its executive director was found to be using CVB-authorized credit cards for personal travel, merchandise, even beauty shop appointments. She was arrested, fired from her post and a new board of directors was put in place to do a better job of watching expenses. Today, under the direction of Grant Raeside, the CVB is a fiscally-responsible, nationally-recognized agency that is successfully attracting thousands of visitors each year to the Tri-Valley.

In 1999, Kathy Hewitt, the executive director of the Valley Community Health Center (now Axis Community Health) was found to have misappropriated funds and overspent the agency's budget by hundreds of thousands of dollars, nearly bankrupting the agency that she founded in 1972. Again, it was all a surprise to the board of directors. Faced with its dire financial situation, a group arranged for a bridge loan through Valley Community Bank to meet payroll and other short-term commitments. Then it hired turn-around specialist Ronald Greenspane to take the reins and save the valued nonprofit health center. Greenspane made a number of difficult and unpopular decisions, cutting payroll and services to the bone, and spinning off the center's money-losing homeless shelter in Livermore and its community food bank, both compassionate commitments by Hewitt and the board but without revenue to support them.

Last week, an in depth investigation by our reporter Glenn Wohltmann showed the Tri-Valley Community Foundation facing similar financial troubles. Ongoing overspending has left the agency nearly $175,000 in debt with a pattern of overspending that began in fiscal 2006-07, when the charity brought in nearly $1.36 million but spent more than $1.6 million. That's been a consistent pattern since then. In 2009-10, "other expenses" had climbed to just over $1 million and salaries had grown to nearly $418,000. The tax return for the year also claimed 108 employees and 50 volunteers. One of those was the affable Dave Rice, the TVCF's long-time director who was promoted to president of the organization and paid $98,571 with the approval of its board of directors.

Dave Rice is now gone and board chairman Ron Hyde, a former Alameda County Superior Court judge, has stepped in to take the reins, as Ronald Greenspane did when he saved Valley Community Health Center from bankruptcy. Only this time, the board that should have spotted the financial crisis several years ago remains the same; even Hyde stays on as chairman. Whether a turn-around specialist is needed, we can't say. So far, Hyde and his board seem to be taking the right steps in using an outside firm to undertake "deep audits" to see if there are greater losses or unfulfilled financial commitments. We know from experience that record-keeping was sloppy at the TVCF, if records were kept at all. Contributors to the recent Pleasanton Weekly Holiday Fund had their checks deposited with the TVCF to take advantage of its 501(c)3 charitable contribution status. Fortunately, all the checks came to the Weekly first, were recorded and the names of the donors published. The $150,000 collected from donors, including a $50,000 match from the TVCF, was paid out to nine beneficiaries last month. The deep audit now under way will determine if there were other promises that weren't kept and, because of the organization's weak financial state, may never be paid.

Should the Tri-Valley Community Foundation go forward, as the CVB and Axis Community Health have? The results of the audit and expectations for future funding will have to decide that. But most local donors would like to have a local organization to help them identify the needy and make their contributions. United Way offers that service. We'd prefer the TVCF if it can regain public confidence and prove that it's well managed and its financial dealings are fully transparent.



Posted by william, a resident of another community
on Sep 3, 2012 at 1:51 pm

TVC does not face similar problems as CVB, which hired an embezzler, or Valley Community Health Center, overspending in delivery of health care.
TVC's board is ultimately responsible for the financial health of TVC and has been during David Rice's time there. The board should be swapped out. David Rice is a man with integrity, intention, and compassion. David Rice didn't embezzle, so your comparison is odious. Nor did he provide medical care ahead of adequate reimbursement, as in your other example. The only point this article articulates is the board and "even Hyde" who are responsible for the inaccuracy, are still in their positions of responsibility. David Rice is gone but my money in TVC is going to follow him.

Posted by Concerned Citizen, a resident of Dublin
on Sep 4, 2012 at 10:30 am

William, you are mistaken. The CEO of a Community Foundation leaves an organization 3 million dollars in debt and he does not bear any responsibility. It is the boards responsibility to hold the CEO accountable and the CEO's responsibility to manage the organization. Neither of the two did their job!

Posted by william, a resident of another community
on Sep 6, 2012 at 11:01 am

So neither did their job. Now nobody answers the phone. The expertise and knowledge have left with the CEO and staff. Where is the money and who can account for it?

Posted by Why, a resident of another community
on Sep 13, 2012 at 1:49 pm

Keep your eyes open, there is clearly another Foundation being formed. The same Board! I guess they are expecting a different result with the same people, WOW!!!!

Posted by Concerned Citizen, a resident of Dublin
on Sep 13, 2012 at 2:28 pm

Indeed. Questions that I believe will not be answered till someone puts pressure on the board to answer them. They hired a crisis management PR firm so obviously they are concerned about information that would be divilged if there was a thourough inquiry.

Given how things are swept under the rug in this community we may never know.