A lack of transparency allowed a group posing as a nonprofit organization to prey on the good will of Texans. In the process of liquidating the organization’s assets, a lack of transparency shouldn’t be permitted to once again shortchange the charity’s intended beneficiaries.
For years, the group that operated the Texas Highway Patrol Museum south of downtown raised money from telemarketing operations that made appeals for assistance to injured Texas highway patrol troopers and the families of those who died in the line of duty. The Texas Highway Patrol Association, however, had no official connection to the Texas Department of Public Safety or the highway patrol. Very little of the money it raised actually served the charitable purposes it claimed.
Last year, San Antonio Express-News staff writer John Tedesco reported that less than 1 percent of the money raised by the group actually went to injured troopers or the families of fallen ones. Between 2004 and 2009, it raised nearly $12 million and gave only $63,500 to the designated beneficiaries.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott charged in a suit that the group had defrauding donors and misspent funds on salaries and expenses that included cigars, liquor, meals, personal travel and luxury car leases. In settling that suit, the charity’s board of directors agreed to cease operations and hand over its assets to a court-appointed receiver.
Funds from the sale of those assets, including the Southtown property that houses the museum, will finally go to help the intended recipients. The only criteria for selling them should be price and ability to pay. The highest legitimate bid should win.
But the court-appointed receiver, Austin lawyer Karl Johnson, appears to be using some other benchmarks to sell the museum property. San Antonio restaurateur Lisa Wong, who owns the neighboring Rosario’s Café y Cantina, says she made a high offer of $1.69 million. But her attorney told the Express-News that Johnson is planning to accept a slightly lower offer — without explanation.
Wong has filed a motion challenging the sale. Johnson should avoid the legal wrangling by making the sale more transparent and bring a decent end to a story already freighted with enough guile.
Sale of assets requires more clarity
Express-News Editorial Board
December 31, 2012
San Antonio Express-News