Retired abecedary Casey Murrow is accepted as the son of allegorical advertisement announcer Edward R. Murrow. The adolescent Murrow stood out for addition acumen aback Seven Days advised loans that Vermont-based nonprofits gave to advisers and lath members: He accustomed added than $300,000 in loans from the education-related nonprofit he ran for added than a decade — loans he is still repaying.
Over the beforehand of two interviews aftermost week, Murrow, 72 and a citizen of Putney, arguable that annihilation was amiss. But the transaction, and others like it, raises questions about a abstruse practice. Some nonprofits address loaning funds to advisers or directors. A few organizations advice advisers buy absolute estate; others accommodate bearding claimed loans.
“We shouldn’t balloon that nonprofits get a amazing tax subsidy in the anatomy of no taxes,” said Todd Daloz, who helped badge nonprofits as a Vermont abettor advocate accepted from 2011 to 2016. “And, certainly, I would appetite to apperceive a lot added about how a lath came to a accommodation to accomplish [a loan].”
The Internal Acquirement Account requires nonprofits, generally referred to by their 501c tax classification, to about acknowledge loans to and from “interested persons”: accepted or above officers, directors, trustees, or key employees.
There’s an added contraction in Vermont: Accompaniment law prohibits nonprofits from loaning money to lath members. Jamie Renner, the sole abettor advocate accepted who oversees nonprofits in Vermont, said he hasn’t gotten a complaint apropos such loans, nor has he advised any. Renner cautioned that advice about the loans independent in nonprofit tax filings is not acceptable to adjudicator if they are problematic. Such a assurance would crave a absolute analysis by the Vermont Advocate General’s Office, he said.
Excluding acclaim unions, 10 nonprofits in Vermont in 2016 were owed a absolute of about $900,000 from individuals listed as “interested persons,” according to IRS Anatomy 990s in Seven Days’ Vermont Nonprofit Navigator database. At atomic seven loans with outstanding balances in 2015 and 2016 were fabricated to nonprofit lath members.
Schedule L of Anatomy 990s capacity the name of the actuality who took out a loan, that person’s accord to the alignment and added details.
That doesn’t beggarly Schedule L is consistently abounding out correctly.
“990 forms are complicated and, aback there is no tax involved, my faculty is that a lot of them are able afield out of inexperience, ignorance, apathy or awkward preparation, as if they are not important abundant to get right,” Colleen Montgomery, a certified accessible accountant who generally works with nonprofits, said in an email.
In Murrow’s case, it’s cryptic how abundant the lath of the Vermont Learning Collaborative, which runs teaching programs for educators, knew about the loans he received. As the group’s controlling administrator from the aboriginal 2000s until 2017, Murrow said, he “wrote all their proposals for their above funding, which came from a accompaniment contract.” Previously, Murrow had spent about a decade teaching at Deerfield Valley Elementary Academy in Wilmington.
Murrow said he didn’t anamnesis what bacon he was paid for his assignment at the collaborative and that it assorted anniversary year. Of the organization’s six about accessible 990s, alone one listed Murrow’s salary: $59,537 in 2012. To supplement his wages, Murrow said, he took loans as “an beforehand on salary” that fabricated his advantage adequate with commensurable nonprofit organizations.
The collaborative’s 2011 Anatomy 990 filing, the oldest available, arise that he owed a absolute of $345,776.
“The lath of admiral became acquainted of above-mentioned loans to the controlling administrator during the accepted year,” says a agenda on the 2011 form. “The controlling administrator can no best borrow funds from the alignment and has active a accommodation claim acceding in which the alignment will antithesis all above-mentioned funds loaned to the controlling director.”
“I anticipate [the board] acquainted it was an boundless amount,” said Murrow. “But they had ahead accustomed it, so that was a little confusing.”
In 2016, the best contempo filing available, Murrow still owed the nonprofit $169,382. That year, the alignment brought in aloof $89,384 in revenue.
Murrow larboard the job in the summer of 2017. He deferred abounding questions about the loans to Amelia Stone, the collaborative’s longtime lath armchair and acting director. Stone directed inquiries from Seven Days to Fletcher Proctor, an advocate who helped address a promissory agenda that Murrow active aftermost year as he able to retire.
According to Proctor, Murrow charge pay about $2,000 a month, including 4 percent interest, until the antithesis is paid off.
For the organization, the accommodation “wasn’t a bad investment,” Proctor said with a chuckle, “but that, of course, is not what their business archetypal is about.” He additionally said that Murrow had consistently arise his “advances” to the board.
Added nonprofits not in the accommodation business accept fabricated them, too.
A 2015 Anatomy 990 filing shows that Springfield Hospital had loaned $52,000 to Dr. Gerald Drabyn, a artificial surgeon and lath affiliate who still owed $40,000. Anna Smith, the hospital’s arch of business and accumulated communications, responded to Seven Days’ queries fabricated to Drabyn and hospital lath members. She said Drabyn was adopted in December 2015 to serve on the lath in 2016 — afterwards the accommodation was issued.
“The alone affair I can allotment with you is that it’s arise as is appropriate and is absolutely a claimed bulk and is actuality paid back,” Smith said.
IRS filings appearance that Stratton Mountain School, which beatific several alumni to the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, has loaned money to Christopher Kaltsas, the school’s administrator and lath secretary. He owed the flush clandestine nonprofit ski academy $39,438, according to its 2016 Anatomy 990.
“No, no, it’s a mistake,” Kaltsas said in a buzz conversation. “There’s no loan.”
He said the outstanding bulk was abundant afterpiece to $9,000 and was a aftereffect of a “due to/from” annual he kept with the school. Kaltsas generally campaign to accession money for the school, and its accountant uses that band account to certificate expenses, he said.
Pressed further, Kaltsas said: “There was never a formalized accommodation area the academy gave me that money and I was answerable to pay it back.”
Kaltsas said the “mistaken entry” had been adapted three or four years ago on the school’s certified banking statements. “And yet addition in the appointment absent authoritative that change on the 990,” he said.
Capacity of the band account accept been on the school’s 990 forms — active by Kaltsas — aback 2010, aback an accountant acclaimed an aboriginal arch accommodation bulk of $72,231.
Kaltsas, administrator for the aftermost 22 years, said he acceptable absent the absurdity aback reviewing the diffuse IRS document. Gary Giulietti, the lath chair, did not acknowledge to a bulletin larboard at his Hartford, Conn., office.
Added organizations arise to use loans to sweeten the accord aback they appoint new employees. The Aloha Foundation, a 105-year-old nonprofit that runs summer camps and an alfresco apprenticeship centermost on two lakes in Fairlee, lent its controlling administrator $658,000 for a home purchase, according to the organization’s 2016 Anatomy 990. Christopher Overtree, who served for a year on the foundation’s lath afore acceptable controlling administrator in 2015, confused from Massachusetts to Vermont to booty the job.
The foundation’s 2017 Anatomy 990 indicates a antithesis due of zero.
“While our cadre behavior prohibit me from commenting extensively, this acting arch accommodation facilitated my alteration to Vermont in backward 2016,” Overtree said in a accounting statement. “The accommodation was answerable a bazaar absorption bulk and paid off in January 2017.”
Even nonprofits in the business of authoritative loans, such as acclaim unions, charge acknowledge affairs involving lath members. Sas Stewart, the co-owner of Middlebury-based Stonecutter Spirits, sits on the lath of the Addison County Economic Development Corporation, a 501c6, and owes it $140,656, according to the corporation’s 2016 Anatomy 990. She explained that she’d gotten a absolute of $200,00 in business loans through the alignment in 2015, able-bodied afore she became a lath affiliate in January 2017. The lath adheres to a austere conflict-of-interest policy, she said, and a abstracted lath makes accommodation decisions.
“We consistently are absolutely accessible about the kinds of organizations we represent, professionally and personally,” Stewart said. “There’s no absolute accord amid who gets loans and the board. There’s aught crossover, for all the appropriate reasons.”
Mistakes are sometimes fabricated on the 990 abstracts — aloof ask Alan Stearns. He was armchair of the Waitsfield-based Northern Forest Canoe Trail lath in 2016 aback the nonprofit acclaimed on its Schedule L that he’d adopted $10,000 for “cash flow.” But Stearns had absolutely lent the alignment $10,000 during a asperous patch, according to abstracts he provided to Seven Days. By aboriginal 2017, afterwards anniversary division donations had refilled the group’s coffers, Stearns said, he had been paid back, after interest.
Murrow, too, has loaned money to a nonprofit, annal show.
While he formed at the Vermont Learning Collaborative, Murrow ran addition nonprofit committed to abecedary education. He congenital Synergy Learning International in 1993 and still serves as its broker and controlling director. Among the educators Murrow alleged to the lath was his wife, Meredith Wade.
The 501c3, now based in Putney, appear Connect annual — tagline: “teachers’ innovations in K-8 math, science, and technology” — and survived on baby grants and affairs account revenue, abstracts show.
But to “keep the address afloat,” Murrow said, he generally paid salaries and added costs out of his own pocket. By 2011, according to the organization’s Anatomy 990, the nonprofit owed Murrow $740,393.
On July 11, 2014, Murrow “forgave $754,809 of loans and accrued absorption payable to him as of that day,” the alignment wrote in its 2014 IRS filing. Murrow said he’d accomplished that Synergy would never be able to pay him back. Indeed, in 2016 the nonprofit took in aloof $12,130 in revenue. Murrow said he wrote off the accommodation as an advance accident on his claimed return, apparently abbreviation his taxable income.
“It fabricated acceptable business faculty at that moment,” he said. “It didn’t assume to me — to any of us — that Synergy was activity to be able to accession that abundant money to accord the abounding bulk that was owed.”
His lath appears to accept provided little blank apropos the loans. David Sobel, a lath affiliate listed as Synergy’s admiral in 2011, said, “I apperceive annihilation about it.” Sobel, a assistant afresh retired from Antioch University New England, said that he hadn’t announced with Murrow in “a decade, probably.” Speaking from his New Hampshire home, Sobel said he had no abstraction he was still affiliated to the organization. He said that he hadn’t alternate in a lath affair in 20 years and that the lath fabricated few decisions.
Instead, Murrow alleged the shots.
“I achievement I’m not accurately answerable for some bad debt,” Sobel said.
Sobel wasn’t the alone lath affiliate afraid to apprehend from a anchorman allurement about Synergy. Wade, Murrow’s wife, said she didn’t bethink a accommodation of that amount.
“I can’t brainstorm it would be that much,” said Wade, who is listed as the board’s accepted admiral in Synergy’s filing with the Vermont Secretary of State’s Office. “That’s such a big cardinal for a very, actual baby alignment that at any time had alone one or two employees.”
Asked about the accessible discrepancies, Murrow denied any dysfunction and arguable that the lath conducted buzz meetings. So, did its associates apperceive about the loans he’d fabricated to the alignment — and after forgave?
“They were acquainted of it from blast conversations,” Murrow said. “I absolutely don’t apperceive how actively they took all that.”
Disclosure: Colleen Montgomery is an buyer of the Burlington accounting close Montgomery & Granai, which does tax alertness for Seven Days.
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