Beaufort News

Strive spending will get more oversight

Strive to Excel has reined in its president's spending authority, and the nonprofit mentoring group will make public the results of an planned independent audit, according to board secretary Tom Gardo.

President and CEO Tim Singleton must get approval from a board officer -- Gardo, treasurer Robert Trask or chairman Ivor "Ike" Evans -- before spending any Strive money. Gardo added that the board will release full results of the audit, not just recommendations stemming from it, as originally planned.

However, the financial review probably will cover only the most recent fiscal year, not the entire three-year period during which the board didn't formally meet and Singleton spent Strive money with no oversight. Strive also has denied a request from The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette for financial records from that period.

Without ruling out a wider examination, Gardo said a multi-year audit would cost Strive too much.

"The funds just aren't there," he said, "and actually, we've already identified the problem -- Tim didn't keep good records. We want to look forward, not backward."

During the period Strive's board didn't meet -- April 2008 to last month -- Singleton's compensation increased by more than $40,000 in one year, records show.

The board recently reviewed finances from that period with Singleton and tax attorney Bob Arundell, who has prepared the organization's federal tax returns, and determined no further examination is necessary, Gardo said.

An attempt Tuesday to reach Singleton for comment was unsuccessful.

Last month, the Packet and Gazette requested records of Strive expenditures and its reimbursements to the Beaufort County School District for Singleton's salary and benefits.

"After reviewing your request, the time and expense to comply given extremely limited resources, the board's commitment to move forward and after consulting appropriate counsel, we have decided not to provide the information you have requested," Evans responded in a letter. "We will continue to make all required financial disclosures available to the general public for the public's inspection."

State and federal laws require nonprofit organizations to disclose some financial information, including federal tax returns, but they are not automatically subject to all of the state's Freedom of Information Act requirements.

However, the act and court precedent say open-records laws apply to any organization supported in whole or in part by public funds.

The publicly funded school district has provided to Strive:

  • Rent-free office space at Hilton Head Island High School.
  • Processing of Singleton's payroll check and benefits plan for the past three years.
  • Liability insurance under a blanket policy for a number of years.
  • "A foundation that has an office rent-free in a school-district building and an organization that is having its payroll handled by the school district is beyond any doubt possible supported in part by the school district," countered Jay Bender, attorney for the S.C. Press Association.

    The district hastold Strive it must vacate its office space in Hilton Head Island High School by Dec. 31. The district also will no longer provide payroll, benefits or liability insurance for Strive.

    Follow editor Jeff Kidd at twitter.com/InsidePages.

    Related content

    1. S.C. Freedom of Information Act
    2. An explanation of Weston v. Carolina Research and Development Foundation on the Sunshine Review website
    3. Weston v. Carolina Research and Development Foundation decision
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