Who is running the Mission Viejo Community Foundation?

At 8 a.m.this morning I surprised the Mission Viejo Community Foundation by walking into their September Board meeting at the Potocki Conference Center. The Foundation is an “independent, non-profit, public benefit corporation.” Foundation member Dave Leckness said they were just speaking about me and asked me to sit in. While I may have surprised them by my appearance I was taken aback to find our city manager Dennis Wilberg there. 

Previously I had blogged about Mission Viejo taxpayers providing over $400,000 to this start up non-profit group. So as not to impair their fundraising efforts the decision was made that the city would have no participation or oversight in their operations.

The down side is that although I recently asked the city manager to have a Board Member attend a council meeting to provide a (2008) update that has not occurred and we are powerless to mandate an appearance.

As someone who has served on 501 C-3 non profit boards I realize that said meetings are not advertised to the public. In fact one member questioned how I knew that it was being held.

My latest interest in the Foundation was triggered by a request to the city for some additional funding to support a new program. That application was under review by our Community Services Commission last week. While the sum requested was minimal the bigger issue for me was that our Deputy City Manager Karen Wylie was serving as Interim Executive Director of the Mission Viejo Community Foundation. The application contains her city hall mailing address. We are to maintain a “hands-off” policy which apparently is no longer the case.

She was in attendance at this morning’s meeting. In my comments I mentioned that while their goal for the Murray Center was commendable they started too late, especially in the current economy.

Without rehashing the Murray Center CIP I added that they missed a golden opportunity to partner with the community over one year ago when Lance MacLean requested $300,000 for a possible Rose Parade Float. I pointed out that of the dozen cities I contacted about their 2009 Rose Parade floats most have active volunteer fundraising activities throughout the year to offset a major chunk of their overall project costs. My sense is that the city manager was there to seek their support for the float, something I had suggested previously. Before I departed Karen told me that the group failed to raise the million dollars as targeted for the Murray Center expansion, adding that we received around $200,000.

In closing let me say that anyone who donates his or her time to volunteer for causes, without compensation, should be commended. The members of the Foundation are each local businessman that wish only the best for Mission Viejo. Those individuals who were compensated with taxpayer money are no longer in the picture.

Foundation Chairman Joe Celantano, whom I had never met before this morning, said that while I was permitted to participate today, I am taking away some of their agenda and personal time. While I do appreciate being allowed to sit and address this group for a few minutes, Joe took a hard line in stating that we are independent of the city. 

Foundation Member Dave Leckness said my name was mentioned as someone known in the city who might be able to support their publicity or fundraising efforts.

For anyone wishing to learn more about this non-profit organization or to see how you can support their activities simply call  (949) 305.3061.

About Larry Gilbert