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Orange County

D.A.'s Charity Says Report Off-Limits

Politics: Supervisors want an accounting. Earlier finding said 71% of funds went to lawyers.

June 19, 2002|JEAN O. PASCO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The nonprofit charity group established by Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas has refused a request by the Orange County Board of Supervisors for a detailed breakdown of the organization's spending, citing attorney-client protections.

The board requested the records after financial statements filed by Rackauckas in May showed that 71% of the $58,000 raised by the group went to pay attorneys representing the charity's board members during an investigation into the group by the state attorney general's office.

The Tony Rackauckas Foundation, renamed the District Attorney Advisory Commission last year, was ordered disbanded after Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer's office concluded it failed to "govern its operations" and "exercise proper care in managing [its] assets."

Only $450 raised by the group went to programs furthering the charity's goal of helping troubled county youth, County Executive Officer Michael Schumacher told supervisors Tuesday. Most of the money raised by the charity came from donations by board members. But the group also received an estimated $2,443 in support from the county in the form of staff time and use of facilities.

In a letter last week to Rackauckas, the group's chairman, Gabriel Nassar, refused requests by supervisors and Rackauckas for its records. Nassar said the charity had $750 in the bank and an outstanding $1,000 attorney bill. In financial statements provided by Rackauckas in May, about $6,455 in expenses were unaccounted for.

Supervisor Todd Spitzer criticized the group Tuesday for refusing to turn over its records. The county allows 40 charities to use public resources for various causes, including 24 groups that raise money for public libraries. However, the county didn't envision a charity board would invoke attorney-client privilege, he said.

"If they use public resources, the public has a right to see these documents," Spitzer said.

Schumacher will propose changes in July to the county's charity policy. The changes include requiring county-affiliated charities to turn over financial and other records and for charity board members to be covered by insurance.

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