First, I want to thank you for your excellent write-up on what is happening at the Center.
The PNC is really setting the bar for reporting on Pagan issues really high, and I appreciate that.
I do want to respond to this statement:
“The source says it unclear if the alleged possible problems with the bookkeeping are from sloppy record keeping, mismanagement, or rise to an actionable item under Minnesota law”
Speaking as a board member for the Sacred Paths Center who has been closely involved with these issues, I want to completely confirm and agree with this statement. We don’t know the answer either. That’s the reason we’ve arranged for this audit.
We’ve talked with our attorneys and described what we’ve found to the Minnesota Council for Non-Profits and the MAP for Non-Profits center resources, and what we’re hearing from them is that our failings are very typical of non-profits of our age and size.
I was surprised to find that they weren’t surprised by what we were telling them. In one case the person I was working with reached into a pile of Frequently Asked Questions From Board Members and handed me a sheet that basically listed everything I’d just told her. Apparently, we’re very mainstream in our failures.
That’s not to belittle our failings – we really missed some obvious things that we should have been doing. For example, we failed to file federal tax returns. The IRS isn’t hot on our heals because we don’t owe them any money, but not having at least filed a return saying that we didn’t owe them money was dumb. Not realizing that we hadn’t done it was dumb again. Not checking to make sure that it had been taken care of and logging it in our corporate books was dumb a third time.
We apparently have dumb down. We’ve shown we’re pretty darned good at it.
If we could bottle dumb, and people would buy it from us, then we would be where you would go to get it.
It’s important to note that as a non-profit in Minnesota, these failings are for the most part already public information. Where it isn’t public information – that in and of itself is where we’ve failed. The federal and state governments know exactly what our failings are, and anyone who wishes to review our Form 990 will see that we haven’t filed one. All levels of government have been very helpful in pointing out to us exactly what forms and reports we failed to file, and they have been very encouraging in asking us to get our act together.
However, this is really small potatoes to the government. We’re talking about dollar amounts that wouldn’t get you enough gas to get to Ely, and wouldn’t pay for a dinner for two at any of our fine Metro restaurants.
Pizza Luce for example – we got some pizzas for our volunteers last weekend and the bill was more than we owe in fines. Maybe. I’m not sure – that’s why we are asking a professional to help us figure it out.
Next, I would like to confirm the following:
“An unnamed source disputes SPC’s claim that this is a routine audit. They say that while the SPC board is acting in good faith and sincerely wants to resolve the issue, the temporary closure and audit were forced on the center by a SPC member. ”
It is absolutely true that this is not routine for the Center.
It is however exactly the kind of audit that is routine for well-formed non-profits – especially those about 10 times our size financially. But the Center has only done one other audit in its lifetime. So, it is technically accurate to say that for the center this audit is non-routine.
That quote though is in reference to something I wrote in a Facebook thread in response to posts such as; “an audit is usually not a good thing.”
Actually, this kind of audit is a great thing – it’s something some of us have been giggling about being able to get done for a year or more.
This is really an awesome step forward for us as a non-profit. We’re not big enough to be required to do one, but doing one is a very good practice for non-profits to get into, and we want to get as close to having “best practices” as we can with our available resources.
However, we’ve been getting a lot of quite scared and confused questions about why we used the word “Audit”. We’ve learned that most people seem to associate this word with getting hauled before the IRS and losing your house, your car, and having your bank accounts emptied.
We’re really sorry about that – we’ve been so eager to get to the point where we had enough structure in place that we COULD be audited that it never even occurred to us to think of that other kind of an audit.
So – yes. This is not routine for us, but we really want it to become routine and to do this annually (hopefully without closing the doors next time). It is routine and performed annually by most non-profits in Minnesota.
We have learned though that calling it an “Audit” did cause a lot of alarm and confusion.
Sorry about that. We’ll try to be more clear in the future.
I am glad to hear that people believe we have been acting in good faith. Personally, I agree. I believe the board and our Executive Director have been and continue to be acting in good faith.
It is also absolutely true that the sudden rush to do this was precipitated by a member.
However, anyone who has tried to force us to do anything – like, say, the federal government, has found that we are not the kind of organization that jumps when told to jump. Even if we really wanted to jump, it would take us at least a week to figure out when the meeting to determine the height of the jump would be held, and we’d probably start that meeting no less than a half hour late.
We’re a non-profit completely run by volunteers with a board that typically only meets once a month for 2 hours. Anyone who wants to force us to do something had better grab a calendar and schedule something well in advance of your anticipated needs.
We are, after all, Pagans, and we do run on Pagan standard time.
I don’t want to go into too much detail because this is all still very confusing and happening very fast.
However, I want to assure everyone that it wasn’t a malicious act. The person who precipitated this sudden lurch of activity was acting from the very best motivation.
The individual who did this is now not only working with me and our Executive Director to help monitor the performance and results of the audit that began Thursday – they have volunteered to cover the cost of the audit our of their own pocket.
This person is a partner with the center, doing what they can to help us Change & Grow.
In the future I hope this individual finds a way to partner with us that is less dramatic.
But I have spoken extensively with the person who forced this timing and I completely understand and respect why they felt this was the right thing to do.
I like their energy. Their timing needs some work, but I really like their energy.
But be that as it may, we already knew that we needed an audit. We were already putting it together and would have had it either complete or well underway later this month. Admittedly though, that’s exactly where we’ve been for almost 2 months now, so I can understand why it might look like we’re not being proactive about it.
Anyone familiar with non-profits of our size knows that we didn’t close because someone threatened to tell government agencies things that are already public information. Every level of government has already been mailing us polite reminders that we owe them forms or paper work so someone telling them again that we’re behind on our filings and reports really would just be a drop in the bucket at this point.
The real honest reason that we closed is that we don’t have two people in the position to both do due diligence to this audit and keep the Center open and functioning while completing our inventory and restocking following last week’s massive sales.
Right now the Center is entirely dependent on Teisha to remain open. But as the Executive Director she has to work with the Auditor every minute of the day helping identify or provide reports and forms, and getting information out of our accounts.
She’s also the only person qualified and experienced enough to work with our inventory and vendor and consignment systems to get the Center reconfigured for the results of Change & Grow.
So – we didn’t close because we’re hiding anything – we closed because Teisha is doing something else right now and we haven’t figured out how to be open without her full attention.
Speaking personally, right now my main concern is getting the inventory, restocking, and audit complete and getting our doors open again. The impact this is having on our community is not something that I’m willing to allow to continue one minute longer than it has to.
Teisha and I found a woman outside of our center this afternoon. She was standing just outside the locked door, sobbing because her partner had just died. They had never been inside the center, but had always talked about checking it out, and now she wanted to do it for herself and her departed lifemate.
We stopped the audit, we opened our doors, we let her in, we offered her tea and listened to her story. We let her look through the store as long as she wanted then we escorted her back to the Ancestors Shrine and helped her grieve.
Our volunteers gave her what she needed by way of stones and any other ritual items that she was hoping to buy to pay her respects and for her own needs. We didn’t sell them to her. When someone comes to the center in need like this, we don’t accept their money. Instead our volunteers gave her everything she had said she was looking for out of their own pockets and purses and backpacks.
This is not unusual in any way.
This happens every single week at the Center.
This is why the Center exists.
This is why our volunteers are here.
This is why these kinds of Centers must one day exist everywhere.
And this is why we are so very committed to making sure that the Center remains a safe and neutral place for everyone.
The Sacred Paths Center governance is committed to putting aside our personal feelings and egos and making sure that we fix these problems that we’ve found – and are asking professionals to help us make sure that we haven’t missed anything. This isn’t about us – it isn’t about protecting anyone or hiding anything.
This is about our devotion to working for the public good and ensuring that we identify and resolve the core problems of our Center so that we can rise to the high level of trust that has been placed in us.
Thank you again for this wonderful article and the awesome people who came forward to help communicate what is happening at the Center.
Sacred Paths Center
Oh yeah – I’m on the board too, but I’d be doing this for the Center even if I wasn’t.