Or Appoint (My Choice) Supervisor Rusch to the Board!In what clearly looks like a retaliatory move after receiving a “Letter of Caution” from Avon Township Community Foundation President Wendy Warden, Representative Sam Yingling has petitioned the courts to have the Foundation dissolved. I had previously reported that the Foundation had lost its 501(c)(3) tax exempt status on May 15, 2012. Prior to a local Township meeting, Warden supplied me with a quick view of papers being filed for reinstatement as well as other related items. I was not given any copies to keep and therefore only have what remains in my memory.
In Yingling’s petition dated July 12, 2013, he cites numerous reasons for asking for the Foundation’s dissolution. Among them are the following (not the exact wording in the petition and with my own recollection of papers I viewed being added in italics):
Illinois law as well as the Foundation By-laws require a minimum of three Board members of which there are now only two. At the time the Foundation was formed in March of 2010 there was a third Board member, Cynthia Pruim Haran, who has since resigned from the Foundation. My recollection of the By-Laws was that it was setup just like Chicago style politics (these are ALL Democrats involved) in that the Board members served for life (or it could have been for ten years) and THEY selected their own successor. Apparently when Pruim Haran resigned she failed to pick a successor.
On July 15, 2010, the pro-bono attorney, Chris Ditton, forwarded a copy of the IRS tax exempt approval to President Warden along with a cover letter that stated she should contact an accountant to make sure the Foundation complies with any annual filings since he would not be taking responsibility for doing that. In the petition Yingling states that Ditton was replaced on December 29, 2011. My recollection and notes I had written down indicated that Attorney R. Christopher Ditton (current Avon Twp. Assessor) was terminated on March 29, 2013, after also being blamed for the failure to file proper annual paperwork with the IRS.
Yingling states in the petition that Warden failed to notify him of the IRS tax-exempt revocation nor did she call a Board meeting to discuss what steps to take next. The petition states that Warden instead hired legal council (April 2013) and proceeded on her own to file papers for reinstatement along with paying huge associated fees. (Note the date Yingling claims new counsel was hired leaving a legal counsel gap between Dec 29, 2011 and April 2013)
The petition states that the revocation was in error since the Foundation had NOT been in existence for three years and that the third year’s filing deadline was not until May 2013. Yingling states that even after informing Warden of this fact that Warden made an executive decision to take a more costly course of action.
Yingling also claims that the other Board members listed on the reinstatement request were never properly approved by the current Board members at the time. At the June 2013 Township meeting there was discussion about having a Township Board member appointed to the Foundation. That was positively responded to and shortly thereafter Avon Township Supervisor Lisa Rusch submitted her request to be the appointed one. (Taxpayers even got involved with the Township’s attorney logging in $110 for time spent reviewing the drafted correspondence from Rusch to Warden as well as approving the final draft.)
Supervisor Lisa Rusch was elevated to interim Supervisor when Yingling won his race for State Representative as his hand-picked successor, thus making her appear to be the incumbent during the recent elections. It appears as though Yingling wants to keep control over the Foundation as he did the Avon Township Board and openly supports Rusch’s request to be on the Foundation’s Board. Foundation President Warden is opposed to appointing Rusch to the Board, thus creating a deadlocked position which was also pointed out in the petition.
As an outsider looking in, this would be no different than putting Warden’s spouse, who has been involved with the Avon Township food pantry, on the Board. Without having copies of the By-Laws it’s difficult to see how the procedure is spelled out when it comes to adding “additional” Board members if someone resigns without naming their successor. However, you would think that if the position opening was made more public there would be other individuals interested in serving their community besides only one candidate. They might even get to have the Township attorney review and approve their resume at taxpayer’s expense.
There are other items that are thrown into the petition like leases, etc. being negotiated by Warden but I have no information on those. It also states that releasing incorrect information to the media regarding who the responsibility actually fell on could lead to legal action resulting in added expense.
The summation of the petition asks the Courts to either dissolve the Foundation due to only having two duly appointed members or else FORCING the Foundation to appoint Supervisor Rusch as an active Board member.
Foundation President Wendy Warden’s Short Response
I had asked Warden if she would like to comment on why the large plot of land was not planted this year and if the food pantry was getting food from the Northern Illinois Food Bank via a local church like they had done prior to obtaining their own tax exempt status. After approval by the Foundation’s legal counsel she sent me the following statement:
The food pantry is operating at full capacity as the result of an agreement I reached with the NIFB which is allowing us to purchase food until this issue is resolved.
It is my understanding that using a local church 501c3 would be illegal. The entity purchasing food for the NIFB must be fiscally, programmatically and operationally in charge of the food pantry.
The Avon Township Food Pantry Garden was not planted for the 2013 season due to a vote by Sam Yingling (Avon Township Community Foundation Treasurer) and Cynthia Pruim Haran (then Avon Township Community Foundation Secretary) which prevented expenditure of any funds beyond those necessary to pay for commodities from the Northern Illinois Food Bank. Ms. Haran’s subsequent resignation from the Board has resulted in a situation where the Foundation cannot take further action pending either an agreement to add a third board member or a court order. ((Rep Yingling and I are deadlocked on a third member.) The result is that there were no funds to till the garden plot for planting. Knowing we had no place to plant, we did not solicit plants from local nursery and groups. This is most disappointing, as we have harvested over one ton of food for the garden in each of the past three years.
The plants that have been donated were planted in community garden plots which were tilled at no cost thanks to thirteen amazing volunteers and tillers we were able to coordinate, allowing us to complete the process of preparing the community garden plots. Harvests from the donated plants will be donated to the Food Pantry.