Why not. MV Community Foundation and DAWG to fund MV dog park

The biggest disappearing act in south Orange County has yet to be picked up by the OC Register. But then again if all we write about are yogurt shops and new restaurant openings why should I be surprised. The Mission Viejo Community Foundation.

Seven years ago the city of Mission Viejo provided over $400,000 in start-up and front end operating funding for the above named 501 C-3 non-profit whose FIRST PROJECT was to raise over one million dollars for the expansion of our Murray Community and Senior Center. At that time they told us that this was NOT a single project non-profit organization. This group of 13 high profile local executives were also going to actively raise funds for future city projects. An important point that needs to be stated is that the city has no control of any independent organization. As such they have never been asked to present reports of their current/future activities nor their finances.

In Sept. of 2008, when I invited myself into one of their meetings at the city’s Potocki Center, I questioned their failure to raise any money for our Rose Parade float. Foundation Chairman Joe Celantano was polite yet reminded me that we do not call the shots as to what control we have over their organization and its commitments.

Unlike the Community Center expansion, that was virtually completed before they lifted a finger, there was no time to raise community funding. I was very vocal pointing out that you cannot raise funds for a project after it has been completed. According to our Treasurer’s office we received a check in the amount of $177,500. There were claims of in-kind funds being raised but I have never seen any proof. Nor has the Foundation supported any other city project. The City Manager tried to spin a Grant that we received but that was not the charter of their efforts. I believe that the above referenced Grant was applied for by a member of city staff.

Fast forward to last night’s meeting where the City Council took the first step in creating a $1,000,000 dog park. Yes, you read it correctly, not $100,000, a million dollars. While the base estimate is $850,000 that does not include any of the award winning goodies like covered tables and golden fountains that we are famous for in follow-up Change Orders and CIP project phasing. Nor does this figure cover the design fees of RJM Design, the only vendor qualified for 99% our city’s contracts.

Council Member Schlicht was correct in her remark last night that “the $850,000 (cost of the proposed dog park) is a floor not a ceiling.” That is something we have all learned while watching phased projects and a la carte pricing so that the public is not aware of the final CIP cost.

There was some light coming out of the tunnel. Sharon Cody offered to have her group, DAWG, participate in a work day and possibly participate in some fund raising. In her remarks she mentions “possible corporate sponsorship.”

Based on her group’s prior success in shaking the trees, and whereas the MV Community Foundation never lived up to their grandiose fundraising commitment, let me challenge these two independent organizations to commence working together as Mission Viejo joins other south county cities with our own dog park.

Vice Mayor Leckness stated “I do have an issue with the price” later adding “there’s ways to get people to do things.”
Very true. Perhaps the Vice Mayor, who was a member of the MV Community Foundation, can get that group back on track and do what they were created to do. Raise money for city projects.

And my last comment relates to our vendor selection. At one point in the meeting Dave asked RJM designer Larry Ryan how many dog parks he has designed to which Larry responded two, neither of which are located in this county. Who designed the dog parks in Costa Mesa, Fullerton, Huntington Beach, Irvine, Ladera Ranch, Laguna Niguel, Laguna Woods, Orange, Seal Beach and Yorba Linda?

It’s time our city staff stopped awarding every contract to our favorite vendors.

One point worth adding. When Flo Jo park was created across the street from our house there were two grass areas separated by Applegate Road. The larger eastern side had costly sod installed while the western side towards fire station #31 had grass seed. As the proponents of this project have waited this long, I would hope that the CIP will be based on grass seed and simply wait for the seed to take root rather than a turnkey lawn from day one. The cost differential was huge and the large and small dogs will be happy on either pad.

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.” Folks. Never happened.

The Orange Juice blog policy of retaining Archives of older posts is priceless, especially, when our city manager cannot force us to remove them.

After publishing my June 12, 2008 story entitled “MV Fundraising Failure…” and my Sept 24, 2008 report entitled “Who is Running the MV Community Foundation?” we received the following comment to the second post from someone named Robert Kiley that you can read in the archives.

Robert Kiley says:
February 11, 2009 at 11:21 am (Edit)
I was the individual who brought the idea of a community foundation to the city council with all good intentions, experience, and a track record.
My proposal was three-fold
1. Preparing, filing the necessary paperwork, and qualifying it as a 501(c)(3) non-profit community foundation.
2. Being hired as its Executive Director for 2 years at $30,000/year.
3. Develop a Board of Directors of high-level individuals from within the community and begin raising money.

I was hired by the city to just to establish the Mission Viejo Community Foundation as a 501 (c) (3) non-profit corporation, which I did. I was told that the city wanted to raise funds for many of its programs and the expansion of the Murray Community & Senior Center. I also applied to be its Executive Director since I have successfully setup boards and been Executive Director of several, such as the Tustin Community Foundation and Community Foundation of Orange.
If you remember correctly, the city set up a task force to interview and recommend someone to be the Director and raise funds. Well, the committee recommended a professional fund-raising operation which required the city to invest over $220,000 to start. That is not my idea of how you operate a 501(c)(3) non-profit foundation. My proposal to the committee was that i would set up an independent board of directors of high-level individuals from the business and finance world within the community who had never been asked before and begin raising money. my fee for doing this was $30,000/year for two years and then the foundation could pick up the my compensation. And in that two year period I guaranteed to raise double my salary.
Also, you are correct, once established their should be no involvement by the city. No employees of the city should be working for the foundation or have any say on what the foundation doing. It should be a stand alone non-profit.
So, it is not surprising to hear that it has gone no where and at a great expense to the taxpaying citizens of Mission Viejo.
Bob Kiley

In closing let me say that city staff was participating in the meeting I attended. As of now I do not know if this 501 C-3 non-profit organization is still in existence

About Larry Gilbert