OCTOBER 26, 2009
A Baltimore charity created to finance programs for the underprivileged largely serves as a slush fund for city officials who routinely dip into its multi million-dollar coffers to pay for projects unrelated to the foundation’s tax-exempt purposes.
A local news report reveals that, with virtually no oversight, the foundation (Baltimore City Foundation) regularly violates Internal Revenue (IRS) rules by spending nonprofit contributions on political purposes and by serving as a secret account where taxpayer funds can be stashed without public scrutiny.
Among the unscrupulous things funded by the Baltimore City Foundation was the corrupt mayor’s lavish inauguration bash at a local ice skating rink. Criminally indicted Mayor Sheila Dixon’s “Winter Wonderland” festivities cost more than $15,000 for rental of a temporary ice rink at the War Memorial Plaza, musical entertainment, a fancy ice sculpture of a reindeer and security.
Earlier this year Dixon, a former Baltimore City Council president, was charged with a dozen felony counts, including theft, perjury, fraud and misconduct in office for accepting bribes from developers with city contracts. She also used gift cards donated to the city’s poor families to buy herself expensive electronic equipment, fur coats and other items.
Last year Dixon had the Baltimore City Foundation, which has no staff and uses the city finance clerk on taxpayer time for bookkeeping, pick up the hefty tab for her fancy Christmas cards. The nonprofit has also been used to illegally store state funds intended for local projects as well as to sidestep a ban on no-bid contracts.
The private charity was formed in 1981 to provide much-needed programs for poor residents in the notoriously crime-infested city. Last year it raised more than $7 million, supposedly to pay for things such as a summer jobs program for youths, funeral expenses for murder victims and smoke alarms for those who can’t afford them. However, large sums of cash are routinely withdrawn by city officials with no questions asked.
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