Skate park - where's the money & why?
By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor
On Oct. 19, 2013, a fundraiser for a proposed skate park to be constructed in Bandera City Park was held at the 11th Street Cowboy Bar, under the auspices of owner James McGroarty.
At a city council meeting on Thursday, Dec. 12, Joanna West gave an accounting of the proceeds - a little over $8,800. Coupled with the $6,003 already deposited in the Bandera Skate Part Trust account with the City of Bandera, donations for the nascent skate park now total nearly $15,000. However, to date, none of the money from the fundraiser have been deposited in a designated city account.
In an exchange with former Skate Park Committee Treasurer Mae Vion Meyer, Councilman Glenn Clark, who heads up the effort to construct the park, allegedly revealed that the over $8,800 has been placed with the Bandera Community Foundation (BCF).
On Monday, Jan. 20, the Bandera County Courier filed an open records request with the city to determine the final disposition of the funds after an email request to Clark went unanswered. According to Meyer, who also serves as interim city treasurer, after she enquired about the donations, Clark informed her about the second account at the BCF. Apparently, he - or someone - opened the account because of the BCF's 501(c)(3) nonprofit status. It remains unclear whether the funds deposited in the BCF account would be subject to the city's audit process.
The Courier sent an email to BCF President Buck Murray asking for an explanation of the mechanism by which the Foundation serves as an umbrella organization, conferring nonprofit status on small grassroots groups. In a Monday, Jan. 27, email, Murray wrote: "Currently, the Foundation doesn't charge anyone to set up a donor-directed fund. We allow any organization that our board finds worthy and can submit the necessary documents to obtain a 501(c)(3) tax shelter for 23 months while they establish their own nonprofit intently [sic]. For information specific to this fund, I must direct you to Glenn Clark as it was he who requested this account."
As Meyer recalled, on May 16, 2013, Bandera City Council approved the skate park committee, comprised of herself, Glenn Clark and Greg Parker, director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Bandera County, as well as other individuals to be named later. Along with her work for the city, Meyer was asked to serve as committee treasurer. The committee was charged with raising money for the project, which would be deposited in the Bandera Skate Park Trust. They were also asked to identify and apply for grants.
However, after Clark informed Meyer that the funds from the benefit at the Cowboy Bar were with the BCF, she immediately resigned from the skate park committee.
Additionally, in an interview, Parker quickly disavowed any fiduciary responsibility for the project, saying, "I was supposed to help promote the skate park to the kids. I wasn't involved in the money at all. I didn't even attend the fundraiser."
Mayor Pro Tem John Hegemier vaguely recalled hearing about the BCF account, but couldn't recall when - or if - council had approved the matter.
Additionally, McGroarty remained unaware of the second bank account. He had also not been informed of the amount of money raised for the project at his entertainment venue.
Queries sent last week to Glenn Clark and Mayor Don Clark remain unanswered by press time.
The Courier's questions about the skate park finances include:
• How significant is the nonprofit status to potential skate park donors?
• How much money from the October fundraiser at the 11th Street Cowboy Bar has been deposited with the Bandera Community Foundation?
• Who authorized the money to be deposited with the Bandera Community Foundation rather than in the Bandera Skate Park Trust with the City of Bandera?
• Did city council authorize the second account at the BCF?
• What's the rationale for having two separate bank accounts for the skate park funds?
• What is the total amount of money in both accounts?
• Who is in charge of the money for the skate park?
• Who opened the BCF account?
• Would the funds deposited in the BCF account be subject to scrutiny by the city's auditing firm?
• Who else is on the Skate Park Committee at this time?
• What is the official relationship of the city to the skate park?
(Editor's note: Councilman Glenn Clark responded on Tuesday, Jan. 28, to enquires about skate park funds sent to Mayor Don Clark on Tuesday, Jan. 21. Glenn Clark's response will be published in the Feb. 6, edition of the Courier.)