I was elected as the board’s president to organize and preside over board meetings. No special powers there, just a lot more work to help things run smoothly. I was elected as a member of the board of education to lead and have a voice for the people who voted for me and a few others who have vocal expectations regardless of the fact that they don’t vote (I know who you are!), they still pay taxes and want representation. So consider this my disclaimer. When you read my rants and raves on this page, they are NOT to be construed as a communication from the Cuyahoga Falls Board of Education, or have any official district affiliation. This is simply my way of communicating to people interested on my thoughts and actions related to the position I was elected to. If you question my information or have inquiries for my elected colleagues, you can find their e-mail addresses at this link, or, you can call them at 330-926-3800 and leave a message. You have to leave a message because we don’t actually have an office at the admin office. You can also e-mail staff members from this link if you have inquiries you think would be better served through them. I make this disclaimer because board members don’t always agree even though the goals of all may be common. I feel like I owe it to voters to know me and my beliefs when I ask them to vote for me. As you are about to find out, the hype about me versus the truth about me, varies greatly depending on the source.
“But that’s the way I’ve always done it!”
Can I just say how tired I am of hearing this excuse? It’s like it’s the fail-safe phrase for anything and everything that’s ever done wrong. Would these same people accept that excuse from our children? Just because I always go 70 mph in a 55 mph zone, do I get to tell the officer to stick his ticket, uh… back in his ticket book?
When I decided to run for a BOE seat, I took it very seriously. We are, after all, setting policy and goals that shape the future of our children. I try to be the example of what I expect from others. For instance, I knew that there were a ton of rules and regulations related to election and campaign finance law, so I studied them, did my best to follow them, and asked questions of the proper authorities at the Board of Elections when I had questions. I do believe that picking up a telephone and asking the right question to the right person is a lost art. When you rely on information from your buddy, who has always done it “this” way – i.e. his way, that’s when you can get yourself in a pickle. Your buddy’s way may not be the right way, as the IMP has found out.
If there had been a regular “changing of the guard” involving IMP officers I could understand the lack of oversight of certain aspects of the responsibilities of running a non-profit organization. But in the case of our IMP, there is a regular core group of people that rotate through the officer and committee positions. So really there is no reason that the long standing members of the IMP “board” as they like to call themselves shouldn’t have been fully aware of their own policies, rules, and regulations. In fact, I find it insulting that one of their own officers felt the need to admonish the Board of Education on policy issues, considering their own shortcomings.
An IMP officer spoke up to point out the she is an administrator at a hospital and in fact her job is writing policies and procedures. It’s her job to see that the proper people are provided policy and abide by it. She went on to say that she wants to make sure people are doing the right thing. So it made no sense to me that she was upset with the board for doing the very things she mentioned. A copy of the district Bylaws and Policies, and Administrative Guidelines are available in every building. The BOE was made aware that the request for a field trip was not in compliance with board policy. Rather than consider a non-compliant trip and be forced to vote it down, we opted to have dialogue with the parties involved in the request and attempt to come to an amicable solution. We wanted to “make sure people are doing the right thing” before considering this trip. Because, as she later pointed out, “we are the role models.”
Bigger than the policy issues though, are the legal and ethical questions surrounding the fundraising and application of funds toward individual accounts for this field trip. This is a little tid-bit that at least some of the IMP officers have been aware of for over a year but foolishly kept to themselves rather than sharing it with the membership. #shhh
The BOE, on the other hand, was not aware of the serious fundraising issues until mid-November 2013. We arranged for a board attorney to present the information to the booster groups and sent an invitation to all booster group presidents. This included PTA’s, alumni groups, etc. The means and manner of informing their own membership of the meeting was left to them. I can tell you as a band parent, no information was sent to the IMP membership regarding this meeting, either before or after the informational meeting was held. #shhh
As a board member, it is not my job to inform booster group members that their officers are violating Internal Revenue Code. It’s not my job to inform members that the groups non-profit status could be revoked due to blatant disregard of the rules and regulations Yet, the board extended the groups the courtesy of the presentation from board’s attorney, with a lengthy Q&A session afterward, out of concern of the negative impact the known non-compliance would have on our booster groups. There are very serious legal and ethical violations being committed by the IMP and it was my hope that they would take immediate steps to inform their membership that they have jeopardized the organizations non-profit status as well as compromised individuals’ tax filing statuses. But they didn’t. #shhh
They didn’t tell their membership that chaperones getting a ½ price trip is a no-no on several levels. The personal benefit is simply not allowed, by any member of the organization, regardless of their status or title. This includes IMP officers and band directors. They didn’t tell members that chaperones going for ½ price (or free), while telling children they are not welcome to participate because they didn’t fundraise is grounds to revoke the organizations non-profit status. They are not allowed to make fund raising a requirement for participation in any event held in their name. #shhh
I think I should remind you here that some of the booster officers knew this since 2012. Contrary to media reports and social media site comments, this was not something they “just found out.” #shhh
But the big ticket item that has an impact on the most members is the IRS issue. There is no such thing as fundraising for yourself using the name of non-profit so that you can personally go to Disney. Period. There, I said it. YOU CANNOT HAVE INDIVIDUAL FUND RAISING ACCOUNTS. They don’t exist in the eyes of non-profit compliance, nor does the IRS recognize them. What the IRS does recognize is personal income. And that is what the IRS calls it when you work or sell products to earn money for yourself. The IRS likes income earned by you because they are owed a portion of that income. Even worse, you owe the IRS the tax on the VALUE of the goods or services. So, let’s say you worked 5 hours at a carwash, but only earned $12 in donations. You will owe incomes tax on earnings of $39.25, because that’s what 5 hours of work at Ohio’s minimum wage was worth in 2013. Oh and those Pampered Chef sales? Hope you charged sales tax. Because in addition to being liable for the income tax on what you earned, you could also owe the State of Ohio sales tax on the merchandise sold. Because you weren’t selling for a tax exempt non-profit. You were selling for you to go to Disney. #shhh
I’m going to end Part II here. It’s a lot to absorb and sadly, I’ve hardly scratched the surface. The lawsuits that the IMP has filed against parents over these extravagant trips are disturbing. Especially with the knowledge that they had no right to demand money from the parents they sued in the first place. More about that and the Candy Caper Cover-up in Part III.
I’d like you all to contemplate something over the next several days because I know what I’ve already told you is hard to believe. The Board of Education was aware of these and many more issues surrounding this trip for less than two months. The reluctance to consider this trip was well founded. The board was forced into discussion and made every attempt to discreetly see that the trip be compliant by at least being inclusive of all band members. The board also took the brunt of the criticism for jeopardizing the trip, when the reality is the true reluctance was the board’s knowledge that the boosters face serious fines, penalties, and loss of non-profit status for what they unknowingly did. Imagine the culpability involved when it can be shown that they were well aware of their duties and shirked them anyway. Would you want to approve the trip now?
Which brings me full circle back to the IMP self-proclaimed policy and process expert. While she was busy pointing her finger at the board, she needs to point it in the mirror instead. She was the one remiss in her duties to the membership of her own organization either by knowing the above information and keeping it on the down low, or, by being totally unaware, despite the availability of this handy-dandy booklet- – Compliance Guide for Tax-Exempt Organizations. I Googled® it J Even better, I found The NonProfit Law Blog which in this particular post, Gene Takagi details a few of the no-no’s our own booster groups are “guilty” of committing.