Friday, April 30, 2010

Money and The Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation.

Some have started to ask questions about the operation, funding, and name of the Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation, founded by Schiavo's parents and two siblings after her death. Though Robert Schindler, Terri's father died last year, Bobby, Schiavo's brother, continues to work full-time as a "pro-life" or, under more recent billing, "disability" activist and speaker. While I think the Schiavo family is quite sincere in their purpose -- they still protest that their daughter and sister was "killed" -- their legitimacy as an organization and it's use of funds is perfectly within the public domain. Those who are encouraged to donate money to the foundation should first understand how their money will be used.

Here's a clip from an article at WTSP 10Connects, a Tampa Bay news organization.

In most recent IRS report that the Foundation filed for 2008, it shows the foundation took in $91,568 and paid Terri's dad Robert Schindler Sr., her brother Robert Jr. and her sister Suzanne Vitadamo $59,275, or 64% of the money they raised.

READ: Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation 990 Tax Forms

Charity Navigator a respected Charity Rating organization says any charity spending more than 30 percent on salaries gets a zero rating. The foundation doesn't come close.

In the meantime, since the report was filed, the salaries have increased to $80,000 a year, but the Foundation says one salary is in arrears causing some family members to work without pay. Also since the IRS report was filed and Terri Schiavo's father died.

We stopped in to talk to Schindler's siblings after they referred us to their attorney David Gibbs, who first told us he would set up a meeting but then said there were scheduling problems. When we found both Bobby Schindler and Suzanne Vitadamo in the office, we were told they weren't available. That's when Bobby Schindler said we should direct our inquires to their attorney, Gibbs. Schindler said they just would rather work it that way.

Schindler didn't tell us anything, including how the organization spent $34,000s more than it collected in 2008; about the money it raised from a concert with country stars Randy Travis and Colin Ray, why as it told the IRS, the Foundation doesn't have a conflict of interest policy; and why it is using the name Terri Schiavo. A court document gives Michael Schiavo intangible rights to his wife's name.

Michael Schiavo says that means no one can use Terri Schiavo's name without him granting permission. He says he did that to protect anyone from exploiting Terri Schiavo name and now he has sent a letter telling the Foundation it is in violation of Florida law, and adds that it is unfortunate he has to do that or warn them they are making money off their deceased sisters to support their lives.

READ: Letter from Michael Schiavo's attorney

Meantime the Foundation's Attorney, David Gibbs sent us this letter saying "they are shocked and disappointed we would participate in attacking the organization under the guise of investigative reporting." Without seeing our story, Gibbs says "our attack on this well-respected foundation is unfounded and unjustified." Meantime Terri Schiavo's siblings won't answer any questions on camera.

READ: Letter from the Schindlers Attorney

And while they're not talking are making thousands of dollars from a foundation named after their sister who died embroiled in controversy and whose name continues to live in controversy five years later.

The attorney for the foundation maintains the high percentage of revenue going to salaries is because of the lack of money the foundation raises. Gibbs says the Schindlers are doing their non-profit work cost effectively and it should be viewed as an accomplishment. The Foundation also says the use of Terri Schiavo's name is proper because she is a public figure, and that Michael Schiavo has no right to challenge them.

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