Tuesday, February 14, 2017

GLBT Center fined $1,000 by state after investigation into Pulse fundraiser

Posted By on Tue, Feb 14, 2017 at 3:24 PM

click to enlarge PHOTO BY MARISSA MAHONEY
  • Photo by Marissa Mahoney
State officials fined the GLBT Center of Central Florida $1,000 after an investigation found staff failed to disburse money raised at an event for the family of Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, one of the 49 victims who died in the mass shooting at the gay nightclub Pulse.

The Center, located at 946 N. Mills Ave., became a focal point for the Orlando community after the Pulse massacre and received donations in the form of money, food, water and supplies in the days after the tragedy. In December, The Center hit back against two complaints to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services that donations given after Pulse had been used for personal expenses of The Center's staff.

While the state department did not release any findings on those two complaints, its investigation did find that The Center raised $2,137 at fundraising event for Serrano Rosado's family on July 22, 2016, called "Orlando Got Talent." The report states that the money raised was never disbursed to the family after the event but instead deposited into the bank account for the organization.

"It was only after the matter was brought to the attention of the organization that the situation was corrected," the report says.

In a letter posted to The Center's Facebook page, the organization's new president, Jeffrey Buak, says The Center became aware of this particular issue through the investigation, and has now distributed those funds to the family, along with an additional contribution. Orlando Weekly reached out to Buak for a comment but did not receive a response. However, Buak tells WESH 2 that "The money wasn't earmarked specifically for that family. Instead, the checks were written out to The Center and deposited into our account. As soon as I was made aware of what happened, we took care of it."

The investigation by the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services also found other violations, including that The Center had not properly alerted state officials about a name change and displayed its status as not-for-profit when fundraising. The report says The Center changed its name from "Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual Community Center of Central Florida, Inc." to "Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center of Central Florida, Inc." in 2010 with the Florida Secretary of State but had not informed the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which is legally required.

The investigation also found The Center failed to provide the true name and address of its executive director Terry DeCarlo, whose legal name is Thomas J. Nunziata; failed to provide addresses of its officers and board members, which made it difficult to run background checks; did not display its not-for-profit registration number; and did not state on fundraising materials that a copy of the official registration and financial information could be obtained from the state.

In his letter, Buak says that while he was happy to report the original complaints were found to be "completely unsubstantiated," the investigation brought to light "minor issues" related to The Center's filings, including "the need to routinely include disclosure information on all web materials and in correspondence."

"The Center is working with the Department to update its filings and will participate in complimentary training program to avoid similar issues in the future," Buak writes. "Finally, through this process, The Center became aware that monies donated for the benefit of a specific Pulse victim’s family were not immediately disbursed as intended; those funds, along with an additional contribution, have now been disbursed to the family. My feeling is, Pulse had the unintended consequence of bringing our community closer together and forged relationships with allies we never knew we had. Our community is stronger than ever, and it is with this knowledge we move forward."

Read the department's findings in the document attached below.



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