In the days following the shooting, this sign stood in front of a home near… (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles…)
The Connecticut attorney general has cleared a path for the distribution of some of the funds donated after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that came to symbolize the political battle over increased gun control in the United States.
There have been questions about how to distribute approximately $11.4 million that has been raised since Dec. 14, when a lone gunman, Adam Lanza, 20, entered the school and opened fire with an assault rifle, killing 20 children and six adults. Lanza, who killed his mother that morning in the home they shared, shot himself to death inside the school building.
In his letter of May 30, Atty. Gen. George Jepsen, whose office oversees charitable issues in Connecticut, said the questions remain, but that the foundation and others charged with distributing the funds had acted in keeping within acceptable standards.
“Reasonable minds may differ as to how the money should be allocated,” Jepsen wrote in a letter to foundation officials connected to distributing the funds.
Noting that his letter is not necessarily an endorsement of the foundation’s decisions, Jepsen went on to say “it appears that the actions and decisions of the transition team and the foundation, and the fiduciaries’ support of those decisions have been reasonable and compliant both with the donor intent as well as the foundation’s governing documents. Therefore I conclude no legal action by my office is warranted at this time.”
After the shooting, the United Way of Western Connecticut and the Newtown Savings bank began receiving contributions that were turned over to an independent foundation, the Newtown-Sandy Hook Community Foundation Inc., created in February.
Under the current plan, the groups, collectively known as the fiduciaries. plan to give about $7.7 million directly to the families. Approximately $3.6 million will go to meet community needs, with the understanding that the families are part of the community, according to the letter and attached documents made public.
The families most affected include the 26 families of those slain, 12 families of children who survived but were in the classrooms where their classmates and instructors were killed and two survivors who were injured.
Jepsen had met with the some of the group last month to discuss how the funds would be distributed. The foundation said it would go forward with its plans but would meet again with the families to discuss any of their concerns in private.
The final distribution of funds will be made by a three-member committee, headed by retired U.S. District Court Judge Alan Nevas. The committee will be advised by attorney Kenneth Feinberg, an expert in managing funds tied to major disasters. Feinberg handled the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund and is working on the fund set up to aid victims of the Boston Marathon bombing.
Other charities have raised an estimated $9 million, some set aside for specific projects. The groups have said they will work together.
Although his letter clears the way for the groups to act, Jepsen noted that the conclusion “should not end the discussion. The foundation now has the ongoing responsibility for ensuring that the fund is managed with integrity and transparency for its intended purposes.” He urged the entire foundation board be present to answer families’s concerns on how the money will be distributed.
In another dispute connected to the shooting, eight of the families that lost relatives in the shooting have started a petition drive through change.org asking Connecticut lawmakers not to release gory pictures or graphic photos and audio connected to the crime scene. Others, including some state officials, argue that there are concerns about the public’s right to have information about the tragedy.
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