Required Public Financial Disclosures Are Not Being Made

Is the Roosevelt Island Seniors Association Hiding Something?

Updated 9 weeks ago David Stone

Last year, RIOC held the Roosevelt Island Seniors Association's hand, guiding them to approval for a hefty stash of public money, $12,000, although they could not meet the standards to which others were held and were under criminal investigation. It may be happening again. IRS rules about disclosure are being ignored, and RIOC is not answering questions about Public Purpose Funds.

Is the Roosevelt Island Seniors Association Hiding Something?

IRS Form 990

IRS Form 990 might look familiar to you at first glance, the kind of income tax return we all fill out and send in, teeth sometimes clenched, every spring.

But Form 990 is different. It's how nonprofits  tell the Internal Revenue Service about their income and how it's used. 

The IRS requires that 990s are made available for public inspection. And not just that, nonprofits are required to report where and how they make them available.

In RISA's latest known 990, filed in January and covering the fiscal year ending in June, 2016, President Barbara Parker checked off that RISA's reports are "Available Upon Request" and also on their "Own Website."

As it turns out, neither is true.

A researcher gathering information about RISA's most recent fiscal year reported a conversation with Parker.

"You told me that the information I sought was on the RISA website. In response, I reminded you that I'd already checked the website."

Not unexpectedly, Parker then gave him the "Old RISA/New RISA" jazz.

"You told me to look for copies of current IRS Form 990s on the 'New RISA's' new website  -- As RISAonline.org."

You can check for yourself. There is no financial information on that website.

Amusingly, there is a tiny amount of information on what Parker now calls the "Old RISA" website - a single file - the organization's Form 990 from 2006.

RISA seems to have been out of compliance for ten years.

What's Missing and Why

The Fiscal 2015 - that is, the calendar year ending in June 2016 - was the first completed and signed by Parker after Rema Townsend, RISA's Program Director for thirteen years, was forced out under a cloud of suspicion.

Look over 990s filed by RISA over several past years and posted in the New York charities database and you begin to wonder if RIOC was asleep at the wheel while approving them for PPF grants.

What other explanation there could be?

There are enough holes in the paperwork to drive one of RIOC's obnoxious riding leaf blowers through.

Completing the IRS forms over those years, Rema Townsend repeatedly left the lines where Board Membership is supposed to be listed blank.

Is the Roosevelt Island Seniors Association Hiding Something?
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

Under those circumstances, the RISA Board, including Parker recently, routinely ignored its oversight responsibilities, leading to hundreds of thousands in stolen funds intended for seniors. So, in its own perverse way, Townsend may have reflected reality, if not fact.

A new twist that may explain Parker's reticence in providing current details is found in the IRS Form 990 she did file. (You can find RISA's filings going all the way back to 1990 here.)

For the fiscal year ending in June, 2016, Parker submitted a much more complete and detailed report than Townsend did. You notice that right away.

Parker fully corrects Townsend's mistake in listing Board Members. There they all are - Parker, Delores Green, Wendy Hersh, Padmini Arya - but something else stands out.

There are other entries that might raise an eyebrow, a troubling discrepancy in reporting $9,000 in "Program Revenue" in one area and $0 in another, for example.

But what should be of greatest concern to RIOC and the community, after this year's Board conflict over RISA's PPF grant, shows up under current Board Member compensation.

Although she was paid at least $40 dollars per hour by RISA for conducting exercise classes, Parker reports her compensation as $0.

We have seen copies of Parker's requests for compensation and confirmed the payments with former Treasurer Padmini Arya. Normally, independent contractors receive an IRS 1099 MISC form for tax purposes.

There is no indication that Parker's compensation was reported in this or any other year.

We have no proof of wrongdoing but report something questionable that RIOC ought to have noticed before giving away public money.

Conclusion

"In 2015, Barbara Parker did 'succeed in stonewalling and slow rolling me when I asked questions,' the researcher trying to uncover details of RISA's finances argues, "even simple ones like what are the names of the RISA Board members.  I never did get any answers to any questions."

He continues.

"In 2016, Barbara Parker did 'succeed' again in the sense that she offered no meaningful answers to questions. And in the course of the PPF grant-making process, she did 'get away with it' in the sense that RIOC awarded RISA $12,000.

"In 2017, Barbara may see no reason to depart from a stonewalling and slow rolling strategy which has worked well thus far."

At this point, as the Public Purpose Fund process appears to be stuck - RIOC President Susan Rosenthal did not respond to an emailed request for information - and with RISA failing to reveal even the minimum information required of nonprofits, no one can be sure about what we don't know.

More important, however, is that we have no answer to the question about why information RISA needs to reestablish itself as a trustworthy nonprofit continues to be withheld.

Due diligence from RIOC, this time around, should find potential for PPF disqualification, right there. A careful look at the facts will show that it's more than "blog stuff" and needs to be seriously considered.

 

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