“THE RIGHT TO KNOW WILL ECHO THROUGH THE HALLS OF JUSTICE”
by: Dan Barton, Publisher of The New-Harmony Gazette. March 24, 2018
What right does a nonprofit, tax-exempt corporation have to keep information about the possible misuse of funds by their former director Stephanie Tenbarge from a formal Evansville Police Department investigation?
One of the primary responsibilities of a non-profit, tax-exempt corporation’s Board of Trustees is to ensure that the organization complies with all federal, state, and local laws.
Along with those responsibilities the trustees also act in a fiduciary capacity and maintain oversight of the nonprofit’s finances. They are accountable to their donors and to the general public. They are responsible for maintaining compliance with all laws. Most especially because they receive taxpayer dollars, as they have from Evansville taxpayers, and are allowed to exempt themselves and their properties from paying taxes, while others are required to pay in full, they should go the extra mile in compliance with the law.
I admit that I’m a little off my beaten path, about 30 miles off, but sometimes issues that affect one community in Southwest Indiana also affect the rest of us. That would seem to be the case regarding ECHO of Evansville. Access to information, the financial records of ECHO Housing requested by the Evansville Police Department stemming from an allegation by an ECHO Board member. It concerns the possible misuse of reportedly $5,000 in ECHO funds by former Director Stephanie Tenbarge. The police request seems to be a reason.
The Evansville Courier & Press broke this story several days ago and the City-County Observer quickly followed suit. Up until this writing ECHO’s Board of Trustees have refused to cooperate with the Evansville Police Department. Now the Evansville Town Council has been forced to take action by threatening to withhold all funding to ECHO until they allow for a full investigation, and for full disclosure of their financial records.
I believe ECHO should open it’s booked to the police and the public. By soliciting and accepting public tax money, from $80,000 to $130,000 every year from Evansville alone, they became an extension of the government entity that they took the money from. They should follow the same rules that we expect our government to follow and come clean. Allow for full transparency. What is there to hide?
Former President John F. Kennedy in a speech made on April 27, 1961, clearly delineated how we Americans view secrecy connected to the government in the United States. In this case, it should also apply to nonprofit organizations who take public money. Kennedy said:
“The very word secrecy is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and secret proceedings. We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it.”
An observation that would seem apply equally as well to ECHO’s apparent attempt at delaying justice by obstructing a full and public investigation of its books.
FOOTNOTE: The City-County Observer posted this article without opinion, bias or editing. The New-Harmony Gazette is a media partner of the City-County Observer.