ABATE of Colorado sent out a letter to the membership on 12/14/2014, and have recently posted it to their website.
Just as I believe it’s our job as citizens to hold our government accountable for their decisions, I believe it is our duty to hold our organizations accountable. Here are some questions for Bruce Downs, the current State Coordinator and the man tasked with salvaging this difficult situation.
Concerning point 5 in the letter:
“Fifth. The information about the dismissal of Ms. Howard was put together as soon as our internal investigation was complete. As nothing was proven at the time the statement was as informative as it could be without violating personal privacy issues. The information was distributed as timely as possible with consideration to those privacy issues.”
Question: Now that the charges have been dropped, what were the factors that lead to Ms. Howard’s dismissal?
Mr. Downs: There were suspicions and we turned it over to a third party to investigate.
Note: Mr. Downs declined further comment when pressed about what the specific factors were. The courts couldn’t find enough evidence to press charges. So, what was “evidence” enough to put a member in jail for 2 nights?
Concerning point 6 in the letter:
“Sixth. One item that has not been mentioned but has bearing on all these issues is that the oversight of the day to day operation of ABATE was and is vested in the State Coordinator. Although input is received from the Board it is the State Coordinators job to make sure the business of ABATE is conducted in a financially responsible manner and that those that work within the organization do so.”
Question: Ms. Howard was the State Coordinator, and as far as I can find, the only financial responsibility of the State Coordinator is: “Supervise/manage the business and affairs of the corporation.” – Article VI, Section 5, sub-section a.1, “Oversee the activities of all other officers” – Article VI, Section 5, sub-section a.3, “Cause an annual written report of the affairs of the corporation to be prepared” – Article VI, Section 5, sub-section a.3.
However, Bylaws Article VI, section 10 states: “The State Treasurer shall be appointed by the Board and shall receive monthly statements of account from the District Treasurers and shall report the status of those accounts to the Board at the bimonthly Board meetings. He/she shall also make sure Districts are complying with the Bylaws concerning finances, such as overages being sent to the State as described in the Bylaws, make sure Districts change bank signature cards whenever Officers change, close bank accounts from folded Districts, ensure the CPA has all the reports needed from Districts for tax purposes, work with the Operations Manager regarding any financial questions and review the budget with that person and report to the Board as to when taxes are filed, read quarterly reports from the CPA, P&L and Balance sheets to the Board.”
In other words, the State Coordinator needs to keep an eye on things. Isn’t it the State Treasurer’s job to keep track of the funds?
Mr. Downs: There wasn’t one [State Treasurer] at the time. This is one of many changes internally to get back to the oversight that should have been there.
Question: Was somebody looking at the books and keeping track of the finances?
Mr. Downs: I wasn’t there at the time, so I don’t know, but I know somebody was looking at the books.
Question: How did Ms. Howard become the focus of the investigation?
Mr. Downs: I will not comment on that.
Note: Who was doing the books for ABATE? Was it really fair to blame it on Ms. Howard when the State Treasurer apparently was a ghost?
Question: Why did the Board ask Ms. Howard to directly violate Article IX of the Bylaws – “No member, officer or director of the corporation shall be held personally liable for the debts and obligations of ABATE” by requesting her to be a guarantor of the high-interest loan?
Mr. Downs: They didn’t, if somebody steps out of bounds on a policy, it no longer protects you. I don’t know how Ms. Howard came to guarantee the loan. The loan was taken out because ABATE was short on funds. The loan has nothing to do with how the allegations showed up. There is so much more to ABATE and business than one loan. They [the various different aspects to ABATE’s business] weren’t all handled in the same way and so things occured which shouldn’t have.
Question: What are the changes to keep this from happening again in the future?
Mr. Downs: A Financial review committee, I myself will review the finances and others. There are a great quantity of issues to deal with and we’re dealing with them one at a time.
Question: What do you see in ABATE’s future?
Mr. Downs: Personally I think ABATE can survive, many factors which enter into that, that could change instantaneously. We’re doing the best we can to deal with one thing at a time. We do have a plan in place for this year.
Question: What would you say to motorcyclists who might have concerns about ABATE?
Mr. Downs: We’re still about rights and education, that’s our focus. If you believe in your rights, you should participate.
This was an extremely difficult and strained interview, so at this point it ended.
However, I’m still stuck on why Ms. Howard was reported to have stolen from ABATE… It would seem a logical progression that Ms. Howard would want to obfuscate finances as much as possible in order to steal. Why did she then educate and quiz the Board on the “Principles and Practices of the Colorado Nonprofit Association” guide the beginning of 2014? Were any of the guidelines about the Internal Controls, Review of IRS information, Audits and Financial communication to it’s constituents followed? Why would Ms. Howard guarantee a high-interest loan and then steal from ABATE?
Stay tuned for more developments…