Mission Viejo fundraising failure. City Council follow-up sadly lacking

Note: As the Juice representative covering the city of Mission Viejo the following post is submitted for reader discussion. I am currently working on two other local stories that will be posted once I confirm the accuracy of un-named source material.

In 2003 the City of Mission Viejo conceived a plan to create “a nonprofit foundation to help raise funds for the proposed expansion of the Norman P. Murray Community and Senior Center.” The following year the Mission Viejo Community Foundation, Inc. was established and received a 501 (c) 3 designation from the IRS so that all contributions would be tax deductible.

To bootstrap this endeavor the city provided close to $450,000 in “seed” money to cover start up costs for the first two years.

During MV’s. August 25, 2005 televised City Talk program, COX Cable VP Jim Leach, Chairman of the Foundation Board, discussed the Mission and Purpose of the Foundation’s first project, the community center expansion with Mayor Trish Kelley. In his remarks Jim stated “the Foundation hopes to raise $1 million to $1.5 million within the next 12 months to complete the funding needs of the project.”

Fast forward to the Nov 2006 (est. date) high profile ground breaking of the expansion where Foundation Board Members bring a billboard sized check, that may have read $227,000., representing their “first installment” towards the project funding goal. According to city records we only received $177,500 in cash. Perhaps the rest represented “in kind” services.

Note: If, according to the MV Foundation, we received over $100,000 of “in-kind” contributions, than the final cost of the CIP was actually higher than $15.1 million dollars as reported by the city.

We are still upside down if you factor in the seed money we provided to the cause.
There might have been one payment in the amount of $42,000 towards start up costs which was followed by $188,625 in July of 2005 and $212,125 in July of 2006.

You do not require a CPA or be a member of our appointed Financial Advisory Committee to do this math. $442,750 in seed money, minus $177,500 in cash, equals $265,250 in the hole.

Note: This may have a partial offset if the in-kind contributions included the much needed cabanas  located in the rear of the center.

Not that it will always be the case but my limited experience with projects of this type is that once a project has been completed donations tend to taper off.

What is very disturbing is that the Foundation, that began with 13 members, has been “missing in action” at city council meetings. Take the money and take off? It has been months, or possible over a year, since we had a city council presentation from any Foundation Board member with a fundraising update. The last fundraising activity that I recall hearing about was either a golf outing or their inaugural ball.

If some of the funding was in the form of “in-kind” contributions, perhaps someone can provide those details. Possibly the individual(s) who used taxpayer provided funds towards his own compensation over the past few years.

Sadly, this is yet another great illustration of “project leadership” of Councilman Frank Ury who strongly supported the Foundation.

Perhaps Mission Viejo taxpayers will get an update after I post this story.

About Larry Gilbert