Do you have a right to know how your tax dollars are spent?
Hundreds of people across our state are demanding that the financial books be opened on non-profits. This all comes after shameful spending was revealed at Rocky Mountain Human Services, a place that provides help for developmentally disabled children and adults around Colorado. An audit revealed that administrators at the Denver-based nonprofit used tax dollars for personal expenses like Costco memberships and internet services instead of using the money for those who need it most.
Now local families struggling to find help, are fighting for transparency.
Six-year-old Ryan Myers has autism and for him even a last minute trip to the grocery store can be all too overwhelming. His mother, Kate Myers says, "It caused screaming so bad. I tried to buckle him in the car and he climbed in the front seat while I was driving and opened the passenger door."
Ryan was approved for medicaid in September so he could he could get assistance with things like behavioral therapy. Kate explains, "Our goal is for him to be independent one day and the longer we wait the harder that is going to be. The Myers have just one place to turn to for Ryan to get the help he needs locally. The Resource Exchange is the only Community Centered Board CCB option for families in El Paso, Park and Teller counties. The Myers have been on a waiting list for almost a year, even though the 20 boards across the state take in millions in public dollars.
Shawn Gliniewicz' 22 year-old son Garion has Autism and he says, "I feel like the system right now really fails the families, across the spectrum." Gliniewicz frustrated with the system says, "When you have companies like the CCB here in town bringing in 14 million a year and you have people waiting years to get those services they need,something needs to be looked at."
The organizations are not required to post an itemized budget because they are nonprofits. However, they get between 82 and 94 percent of their budgets from you, tax money right out of your paycheck.
We asked David Ervin, the CEO of the Resource Exchange why there is a lack of transparency. Ervin says, "Some companies think of it as a proprietary advantage. Those are documents that frame out competitive advantage. Others say it can cause undue concern." Ervin says he is aware that families are frustrated, but explains, "We're always looking at our system internally for improvements and I mean relentlessly."
Tax statements from the CCB's are posted online, but without an itemized budget, questions surround areas like "other" that account for more than five million dollars. While families grow increasingly frustrated with the lack of services, at the capitol there is a bill in limbo headed by Senator Irene Aguilar. It calls for more transparency of the boards, requiring that the state auditor review spending. Currently 18 of the 20 CCB's use the same auditor. The bill would require them to comply with Open Records laws, allowing anyone to see the itemized spending and overhead costs.
In Pueblo county, we spoke with Michael Atlas-Acuna, executive director of Colorado Bluesky Enterprises. He says that would mean more administration and in turn less money for families in need. Pueblo in fact seemed to be much more transparent with their budget than most of the boars we contacted across the state.