At their final meeting, board members of a nearly broke, nonprofit mentoring group voted unanimously to give a parting gift to the CEO whose management of the organization helped bring about its demise.
Tim Singleton received $7,785 in "various equipment" from the organization, which also forgave a loan to him with a $1,300 balance remaining, according to Strive to Excel's 2011 federal tax return, filed this week after a three-month extension.
Meanwhile, the S.C. Attorney General's Office acknowledged for the first time it is formally investigating Strive, which operated out of Hilton Head Island High School for about a decade before governance and financial problems caused it to fold in December 2011.
In paperwork required to dissolve the organization, filed with the state Secretary of State's office in January 2012, Strive claimed it had only 63 cents remaining in its bank account and no other assets to repay one of its creditors, First Federal bank.
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According to the tax forms filed this week, Strive was more than $155,000 in debt, but it's unclear whether First Federal is the only unpaid creditor. The return indicates "lending institutions" were notified the debt would not be repaid.
Board members made donations to Strive so that it could repay the Beaufort County School District for the insurance and benefits it provided Singleton, dissolution paperwork indicates. District chief of operations Phyllis White said in March that Strive owed the district no money.
The tax return also details computers, radios, cameras, trailers, grills and cellphones the organization owned. It's not clear how much, if any, of that equipment was among the assets given to Singleton or how the $7,785 figure was calculated.
However, the return indicates the board voted unanimously to transfer the assets to Singleton. The return does not say which members attended that meeting or when that meeting took place. Board members listed on the return were chairman Ike Evans, vice chaiman Coleman Peterson, treasurer Robert Trask, Tom Gardo, Herbert Ford, Kim Tubbs and Lynne Anderson.
Reached by phone, Evans said he did not have time to answer questions, then hung up. Gardo said he has not seen the tax forms but offered no further comment -- he is no longer the spokesman for Strive because the organization no longer exists, he said.
Reached by phone, Singleton also declined comment.
Bob Arundell, who has filed the organization's tax returns for years, declined to answer questions, and said his final instructions from Strive were that he "was not at liberty to discuss (its) affairs with the public."
It's unclear if the transfer of assets to Singleton is legal.
The S.C. Nonprofit Corporation Act indicates that when a nonprofit organization's bylaws don't provide specific provisions for disbanding, it must pay off debts and give remaining assets to other nonprofit organizations, the state or federal government, or to some other public purpose.
A spokesman for the S.C. Attorney General's office, which helps enforce that law, said Thursday he could not comment about Strive to Excel because of the ongoing investigation. Last year, the office requested bank documents, meeting minutes and other documents from Strive, but characterized its examination as a "review."
Strive previously drew the scrutiny of the S.C. Secretary of State's Office. In January 2012, it was cited for filing incorrect financial statements under the state's Solicitation of Charitable Funds Act. Renee Daggerhart, a spokeswoman for that office, said Strive was not fined because it submitted corrected reports within the 15 day window provided by law.
The recent tax filing, which covers the organization's finances from June 1, 2011, to May 31, 2012, provides other glimpses of Strive's demise, which came Dec. 31, 2011, halfway through that fiscal year.
Singleton's salary dropped about $4,500 to $83,115. He had earned $87,680 in 2010.
Contributions to Strive dropped as the controversy unfolded. The organization brought in $109,300 less in contributions and grants than it did in the year prior. The money the organization spend on scholarships, college campus visits and student mentoring and enrichment activities also declined.
Follow reporter Rachel Heaton at twitter.com/IPBG_Rachel.