The Vineyard Gazette – Martha’s Vineyard News


The Cape and Islands District Attorney’s Office announced this week that it will not prosecute the Vineyard Trust for changing tenders for contractor work as the nonprofit looks to the future after a tumultuous summer with its chief executive resigning.

“After a full review of all investigative materials submitted so far, we found that there wasn’t enough evidence to support a criminal charge,” DA spokeswoman Tara Miltimore wrote in an email to the Gazette. “However, should new evidence come to light, the matter will be re-examined.”

The prosecutor’s announcement comes after the Edgartown and Oak Bluffs Police Department forwarded an investigation to state police regarding amended public funding requests the Trust filed for the Old Whaling Church in Edgartown and the Flying Horses Carousel in Oak Bluffs earlier this summer .

But the island charity, which owns and maintains 20 historic buildings on Martha’s Vineyard, including the recently reopened Alley’s General Store in West Tisbury, is still struggling with its donation filings in an effort to restore public trust.

This week, the Attorney General’s Office announced that it had written a non-compliance letter to the Vineyard Trust after receiving an anonymous tip-off earlier this year regarding the organization.

“We received an anonymous complaint about this organization in March and then sent them a letter of non-compliance,” a spokesman for the attorney general wrote in an email to the Gazette. “We worked with them to bring them into compliance (we are currently awaiting their 2019 review and 2020 filings).”

New CEO John Klein and acting Executive Director Sally Rorer. – Ray Ewing

The Gazette filed a public record request with the Attorney General’s office for the non-compliance letter and received no response.

Vineyard Trust board chairman John Klein, who took office after Patrick Ahearn’s term ended in July, said the issue was related to the organization’s 2020 Form PC, a financial document similar to a federal Form 990 and published annually by Must be submitted to all charities in the country’s charities. The long form includes financial disclosure requirements, annual donations, employee compensation, and a conflict of interest section that requires nonprofits to disclose various related party transactions, including trustees and directors.

In a specific section of the document, nonprofits are required to disclose lease agreements with trustees. The Trust has leased two properties – Alley’s General Store and Osborne Wharf – to directors.

Mr Klein downplayed the issue on Thursday, blaming the trust’s former accounting firm for the problem.

“From a content point of view, that’s not an issue. It’s more of a clerical matter, ”said Klein. “I wasn’t happy with our bookkeeping, our accounting firm doing the taxes, and they didn’t respond to me when they took over. So I changed company. “

He declined to name the firm but said it was based outside the island and was replaced by a new accounting firm in August this year.

“The state requested Form PC from our accountant,” added Mr. Klein.

“We had it for 2019. The exam was over, and at the beginning of the year we combined the exams for 2019 and 2020 … You will be completing your tax returns for 2019 and 2020 in the next few weeks.”

The Attorney General’s Nonprofit and Public Charities Division is responsible for overseeing the assets of thousands of public charities across the state and investigating and enforcing alleged fiduciary violations. Mr Klein said the state requested all of the trust’s financial documents in a single filing, explaining why the organization is still non-compliant.

Questions arose about the Trust after the Edgartown community meeting in June when city officials filed a $ 300,000 Community Preservation Committee arrest warrant to paint and renovate the whaling church. It later emerged that the managing director of Trust, Funi Burdick, had changed the job offer without the knowledge of the contractor. A similar problem was discovered with a public funding request for the Flying Horses Carousel in Oak Bluffs. Although the article on the Oak Bluffs arrest warrant was approved by the city council, city officials quickly froze the funds.

Mrs. Burdick resigned on the discovery. The search for a new managing director continues.

In a sit-down interview with the Gazette, Mr. Klein said he was happy but not surprised that the prosecution refused to prosecute and that the organization hired a Boston attorney to conduct its own internal investigation into the matter.

“I was very, very pleased [the DA’s office] has now finally appeared with the report that did not surprise us. We expected that, ”said Mr. Klein. “We put on the table all the facts that we had. And we want to move forward. “

Mr Klein said the trust’s board of directors, which has more than 40 members, was devastated by the question of the contractor offer and that two employees, including Ms. Burdick, had left the organization. Mr. Klein declined to comment further

when the second employee leaves, referring to data protection in personnel matters.

“There were a few employees who did something they should never have done. And they are no longer with us, ”said Klein.

Three board members also left the board voluntarily, mainly due to age or a lack of commitment, Klein said. However, he said the engagement of the organization’s governance, finance, events and construction committees had increased in recent months, and said the board had also formed a “Community Outreach Committee” in hopes of building better relationships between Vineyard residents and board members promote and trust properties.

After Edgartown froze funding for the Whaling Church project, Mr. Klein said a private Edgartown resident ran an email campaign and set up a separate organization called Friends of the Whaling Church to raise funds to complete the To collect painting and renovation. Mr. Klein confirmed that the resident Parthenia was Kiersted and that the organization raised nearly $ 300,000. He said the community engagement committee grew out of Friends and that similar efforts are underway in Oak Bluffs.

The Trust currently has a banner on its website asking for donations for the Flying Horses platform renovation and painting project, which has raised more than $ 25,000. The city has not yet approved CPC funding for the project and work is on hold.

Mr Klein said work on the whaling church should begin in October with the hope that it will be completed by the first week of December.

“The trust is currently in very good shape internally,” said Klein. “We are well positioned financially. We are in good shape from a governance point of view. From an economic point of view, from a financial point of view, we have to climb a hill by the end of the year. But I’m confident that the team is there, we can do it. “

Mr. Klein also responded to questions about conflicts of interest that have arisen in relation to the Trust and its directors. Following the lease of Alley’s General Store to board member and owner of Le Roux Housewares Store in Vineyard Haven Michael Levandowski last spring, Mr. Klein said the trust and Mr. Levandowski have reached an agreement that he will step down from the board. Alley’s General Store reopened to the public this month after a summer shutdown.

“Michael and we both came to the conclusion that it was not appropriate for him to remain on the board once he became an operator,” said Mr. Klein. “It was a mutual decision.”

But Mr Klein claimed that there was no problem with the Trust leasing property at 45 Dock Street known as Osborne Wharf to board member Garrett Conover for use as a real estate agency. He said Mr. Conover put hundreds of thousands of dollars into renovating the building and that the lease was mutually beneficial.

He added that the trust’s attorney reviewed the agreement and found no issues.

“I don’t see any problem at all,” said Mr. Klein. “As long as [Mr. Conover] rejects everything that concerns the conditions, the rent, etc. “

A full search for a new Managing Director for the Trust is ongoing. Mr Klein said the organization had received more than 60 applications from both on-island and off-island candidates and that interviews would be held this week.

Looking back on last summer, Mr. Klein claimed that the turmoil in the trust had nothing to do with its board of directors. But he apologized for what he called the unforgivable mistakes made at the employee level, saying his goal was to help the trust get back focused on its mission, keep historical properties energetic and that Regaining the trust of the Vineyard community after the upheaval.

“This was not a governance issue at the board level,” said Klein. “But it is clear to us that the connection to the community is a lesson that we have learned, and that [Ms. Burdick] and we weren’t as open to our respective communities … as we could have been. “

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