Monday, Apr 23, 2018
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State of Ohio begins inquiry into YMCA's finances

COLUMBUS - The Ohio attorney general's office is investigating the financial operations of the YMCA & JCC of Greater Toledo.

"We are cooperating," Paul Schlatter, chairman of the YMCA's board of trustees, said Friday. "I guess it's their job to do that. We're not worried about it one way or the other."

State Sen. Teresa Fedor (D., Toledo) confirmed she's been told by the attorney general's office that a query is under way. She stressed that she doesn't know specifics of what may have been requested from the nonprofit organization.

"They're checking into the same questions we've raised, the concerns we may have with nonprofits and public dollars," she said. "They do have a section for nonprofits."

Ted Hart, spokesman for the attorney general's office, would neither confirm nor deny that an investigation has been opened. Mr. Schlatter referred additional questions to Toledo attorney Justice "Judd" Johnson, who in turn referred calls to Columbus attor-ney Mark McGinnis. Mr. McGinnis declined to comment.

In late July, YMCA officials announced they were closing the South Toledo Y, citing more than $200,000 in budget deficits and a state decision to eliminate public funding for an early learning preschool program operated at that YMCA branch.

That decision launched a firestorm in South Toledo by YMCA members and area residents who viewed the closure as a blow to the neighborhood.

The level of criticism rose after reports in The Blade that the YMCA is paying YMCA President and CEO Robert Alexander $270,000 a year and that his wife, daughter, and daughter-in-law all held executive posts in the organization.

Ms. Fedor, Lucas County Auditor Anita Lopez, South Toledo residents, and The Blade called for YMCA officials to release records documenting credit-card and travel spending by top YMCA executives, but YMCA officials refused.

YMCA officials have since launched a drive to save the South Toledo YMCA branch by attempting to sell 500 new memberships. The drive, to continue through Dec. 12, hopes to raise about $300,000 a year in additional revenue.

A coalition of dissatisfied YMCA members and South Toledo residents seeking to save the South branch had asked the Lucas County Commissioners to create a task force to look into the finances and operations of the organization. But the informal coalition's Cooper Suter said he was unaware of anyone contacting the attorney general's office.

"I personally believe - and I think a lot of our coalition would agree - that it would be a positive thing if this was off our shoulders," Mr. Suter said. "In terms of governance, transparency, and accountability, if someone of public trust would clear them, that would be great. Then we could get down to dealing with the South branch. It could only help membership if people had faith that their dollars were well invested with the Y."

It was not clear specifically what information the state has requested from the YMCA.

But one of the "most important tasks" and "oldest responsibilities" of the Charitable Law Section, according to the attorney general's Web site, is to "make sure that funds are used for charitable purposes, not private interests."

The section consists of 15 attorneys and eight investigators. In the fiscal year that ended June 30, the section received and investigated 1,046 complaints, 389 of which were later opened as legal matters. Mr. Hart said most of the complaints dealt with charitable bingo.

Ms. Fedor stressed she did not request the investigation.

"They went ahead and did it through their process," she said.

Contact Jim Provance at:

or 614-221-0496.

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