As a follow-up to Marion Ashley’s guest commentary, I am happy that the Riverside chairman of the Board of Supervisors is so passionate about helping organizations in the community. I hope he will become a better advocate of taxpayer funds and ask his colleague Jeff Stone some tough questions.
What Supervisor Ashley does not seem to understand is that this is not a knock against the goal of raising funds for the worthwhile organizations that Race for Humanity (RFH) has supported, it is about the obvious conflict of interest, ethical issues and the fact that without all the taxpayer funds from the county, the RFH would be a complete failure.
All the organizations that benefited from the RFH would have most likely gotten more money without the entity, as there would not have been hundred of thousands of dollars in expenses and the county could have contributed the funds directly to each of the organizations, including the Center Against Sexual Assault. In fact, I am willing to bet that many of the corporate sponsors of the RFH would gladly make their donations directly to such worthy causes instead of having it go to the RFH’s expenses.
More telling are the issues that Supervisor Ashley’s response seemed to ignore:
– The fact that the RFH has actually cost taxpayers money in the first three years of its existence. It would have been easier and more financially feasible for the Board of Supervisors to give the money directly to the organizations.
– He fails to address why the RFH is delinquent on their filings with the California Attorney General’s office.
– He ignores the fact that a business affiliated with one of the board of directors of the RFH was paid $5,700 and the California Attorney General wants to know more about it but the RFH has not responded to the request.
– And while he may be correct that the IRS has never imposed any penalties against the RFH that is only because a complaint has never been filed and the IRS is simply not aware of the RFH’s financial transactions. The RFH funds were actually run through the Riverside County EDA for the first year which may or may not be legally acceptable to the IRS.
– He may not know that Supervisor Stone may have violated the law requiring notification of behested payments and that will be something that the FPPC will have to determine.
– He neglects to address the letters to the FPPC written by Lori Stone inquiring about the acceptable limits of promoting Jeff Stone. If the intent is not to promote Jeff Stone then remove his name from the organization’s official name.
– He should wonder why Jeff and Lori Stone don’t simply open the books to the public for inspection so that there would be no question regarding the organization’s financial integrity and there would be complete transparency.
– And finally a person such as Lori Stone who has been paid more than $400,000 since Supervisor Stone took office should be capable of answering these simple questions since she is the CEO of the RFH. Yet time after time, she refuses to answer the questions which continue to dog this organization.
In the words of the late Billy Mays, “but wait there’s more” and it only gets more complicated for Supervisor Jeff Stone.
The final figures are in for how much money the RFH actually received in taxpayer funds and it is more than reported.
Since its inception the RFH has actually received $537,025 from the taxpayers. Now the race has not made public its donations for 2010 so in fairness we will back out the $37,500 in taxpayer funds that they received this year.
So over the first three races the RFH received a total of $499,525 from the taxpayers and gave away a total of $481,325 which means the taxpayers lost a total of $18,200.
Stone appears to be a proponent of fuzzy math. In 2009 he was quoted in the Press-Enterprise as saying, “this is a case where you take $100,000 of taxpayer money that is going to nonprofits, and we multiply it times 1.6 so we get a 60 percent return on investment. So it’s a good public-private partnership.”
Well, Mr. Stone, the numbers do not add up. The return on investment is actually a loss for the taxpayers, but it is a huge feather in the cap for someone who is trying to use taxpayer dollars to promote themselves shamelessly.
Now, this taxpayer funded effort to glorify her brother may seem like it is doing a good thing, but think about it. Wouldn’t it be easier to simply have the county donate the money to the charities directly? They would still get the same amount and most likely more. There are hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations that were made by others in the community that are all being wasted on the cost of putting on the race. These funds could also be going directly to charities and by removing the RFH as the middleman they would all get substantially more.
In addition, the claim of funds being donated by RFH does not add-up either. Here are the recipients from 2007:
SAFE – $28,006
La Vista Recovery Center – $27,497
The Community Foundation – $35,947
American Heart Association – $27,251
Rancho Springs Medical Center Auxiliary – $23,396
A total of $142,097 in donations was made, yet the RFH claims the number was $172,956 for the first year. Well part of that discrepancy could be that $28,046 in donations was to be made to the Homeless Campus but that project was placed on hold. So the Riverside County EDA held on to the funds until June 2009.
On June 16, 2009 the Riverside County Board of Supervisors approved giving that $28,046 and the $21,276 raised in the 2008 race for the Homeless Campus to five food pantries. Each organization got $9,964.40 and the motion was made by Jeff Stone voted on by all five supervisors, including Jeff Stone.
It turns out one of the organizations was the Senior Services Center Emergency Food Program which is currently a tenant in a building that Jeff and Lori Stone own together located at 41538 Eastman Drive in Murrieta. According to Jeff Stone’s Statement of Economic Interests, the Senior Services Center was also a tenant in 2009. So it appears that Stone voted to give money to an organization that paid him and his sister $24,000 in rent in 2009.
This is not the first time Supervisor Stone voted to give money to this organization while having a serious conflict of interest. On June 5, 2007 he voted to give the same organization $10,000 from his CID funds. Mysteriously, three weeks later, the vote was rescinded and taken again in which Stone abstained citing a “potential conflict of interest.”
Supervisor Stone may think his sister has his back on all of this, but he may be facing a significant fine from the FPPC if they find that any donation made to the RFH was done so as a result of Stone’s elected position.
The FPPC requires elected officials to file reports for “behested” payments. These are payments that are solicited by the elected official on behalf of another organization such as the RFH. These reports are required to be filed within thirty days of the payment of any donation in the amount of $5,000 or greater solicited by elected official or on their behalf.
In the four years of the RFH Supervisor Stone has only reported one contribution which was for $12,500 and came from developer Tom D’Amico in 2006. Supervisor Stone does not actually have to be the one who picks up the phone to make the solicitation. An elected official has to report behested payments if anyone made the request on his behalf with his knowledge. Now remember the actual name of the committee is Third District Supervisor Jeff Stone’s Race for Humanity. In addition, his sister whom he pays from his campaign committee works out of his taxpayer funded supervisor’s office. Lori Stone is the CEO of the RFH and she uses as her contact information for the RFH a phone number and e-mail account that are both tied back to Supervisor Stone’s office. We don’t think that Supervisor Stone was unaware and we are betting the FPPC will agree.
If the other four Supervisors are willing to continue standing for Stone’s use of taxpayer funds to promote himself, they could at least encourage him to change the name to “Third District Supervisor Jeff Stone’s Narcissistic Race for Humanity” which would be much more honest.