His foundation's inability to keep up with annual filing requirements turned out to be symptomatic of larger troubles.
In the coverage of the indictment of Orange County (California) sheriff Mike Carona, what caught my eye was the LA Times' reference to an earlier investigation of Sheriff Carona's charity foundation. A quick search turned up the 2005 tax filings of The Mike Corona Foundation (EIN 33-0886148 Form 990) and a little more digging revealed that the foundation was dissolved in 2005, even though there is nothing to indicate that in the 2005 Form 990—there is check box on page one of the form to report a final return, but it's unchecked.
What happened was reported in the Orange County Register (Martin Wisckol & Peggy Lowe) back in December, 2005. It seems the sheriff threw up his hands at the paperwork requirements for maintaining a charity organization in California and, according to the story, planned to turn the organization's funds over to the United Way (which surely means Orange County's United Way EIN 33-0047994 Form 990).
What were these daunting paperwork requirements? Charities in California have to file an annual form stating their gross annual income and assets and answering nine yes-no questions about
- self-dealing transactions,
- theft, embezzlement, or other diversion of funds,
- whether program expenditures exceed 50% of gross revenues,
- use of organization funds to pay penalties, fines, or judgments (attach IRS Form 4720),
- use of commercial fundraisers (list name, address, phone number),
- raffles (list with dates),
- government funding (list agencies and contact information),
- vehicle donations (list whether organization or outside firm provides the service), and
- financial audits
Yet this seems to have been beyond the capability of this organization's volunteer board (there were no paid staff, according to the Form 990).
Even when it was flying high, its 2003 Form 990 and 2004 Form 990 were filed in November of the following year (judging by the dates they were signed). In both cases the organization obtained extensions from the May 15 filing date. The organization's main activity was making grants to other charities, twenty or so in 2004, and it had few expenses other than legal fees (about $22,500 in 2004). It's baffling to me why an organization this straightforward could not file these informational returns on time.
The indictment against Sheriff Corona lists a number of instances accusing him much more serious lapses. But I wonder whether more attention to the difficulties of his foundation in 2005 might have kept him from being elected to a third term in June, 2006, and thus avoided the last two plus years of investigations and turmoil in the Orange County sheriff's office. It's something like the Broken Window Theory applied to politicians—if their charities are poorly run, maybe they shouldn't be holding public office.
And if we can't always measure what charities do, we at least have some measure of their ability to carry out their mission by noting whether they are able to file their required reports on time.