Two weeks ago, SFGN censured Marc Hansen, the director of Pride South Florida, for refusing to release the notices sent to the group by the IRS, following its apparent failure in a tax audit.
Last week, the Pride South Florida board had an opportunity to rectify this colossal mistake by overruling the ignorant act of Mr. Hansen. But the supplicant and compliant board rolled over and did nothing, denying you the right to see why Pride South Florida is under an IRS inquiry.
This week, SFGN has made its own public records request to the IRS. We have also gone to circuit court to sue them, asking for a declaratory judgment that their withholding of these records last week was a patently illegal act.
One of the things you learn as a lawyer is not to ask a question you don’t know the answer to. When SFGN asked Mr. Hansen for the tax notice, we knew we had a right to it. So do you. Anyone in the public does.
If you doubt it, just download IRS Form 4506-A. Here is what it reads, and what Pride South Florida board members ignored:
“Public disclosure by a tax exempt organization: Exempt or political organizations must make their returns, reports, notices, and exempt applications available for public inspection.”
The regulations provide that if you visit the organization they must be given to you on the spot if they are open for business.
At the last board meeting, John Fugate, an Advisory Board member of PSF, asked for the notice. He well should have. As an advisory board member, he has a fiduciary obligation to the community and the association to insure that none of its tax filings are deficient, that no audits have been failed, and that no more directors are stealing thousands of your dollars. He was denied access as well.
Marc Hansen arbitrarily refused him the copies. It may be one thing to deny an outsider access to records you deem private, but it’s quite another to deny those same records to a legitimate board member. The board failed to overrule him. Not one person spoke up for John’s right to inspect those records.
This kind of intransigent and defiant behavior from one of the community’s largest non-profits is untenable and unimaginable, unconscionable and unacceptable.
This newspaper now calls upon our community leaders and non-profit representatives to demand disclosure and transparency from Pride South Florida, before the orders come from a circuit court judge. Come they will.
Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the late United States Senator from New York, once stated, “that if you visit a country and all you see in their paper is good news, there are a lot of good people in jail in that country.”
SFGN is filing a declaratory judgment action in the circuit court seeking a judicial ruling that the refusal by Pride South Florida to turn its public records over to us upon our lawful request was an illegal act by them against YOU.
Today is the 21st day of their ignorance, and no way to celebrate the 4th of July. The 4th celebrates the independence of a country founded upon a free press. It’s one of those amendments we honor this week.
Sunlight is a great disinfectant. If Pride South Florida had intelligent leadership, prudent guidance, and nothing to be ashamed of, and we would have had these tax notices – which may yet prove to be minor – without judicial review. Instead, the board shames and embarrasses the gay community.
Pride South Florida is not the National Security Agency and their records should never have been classified as ‘Top Secret.’ The people seeking to unmask their cover-ups are not spies. They are reporters doing their duty, exposing fraud and incompetence where they find it.