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Van Service gives an explanation on alleged embezzlement and needs help to keep operating

(This letter was received after the Tribune went to press on Tuesday, January 23, 2024)

‘Service above self’.  Twenty years ago, Rotarians from the Wet Mountain Rotary Club recognized the transportation needs in the community for seniors, veterans, the disabled and those living in poverty who were unable to take care of their medical, physical and shopping needs.  These Rotarians then created an associated but independent non-profit from the original Rotary Club, The Rotary Van Service. Two other distinct non-profit Rotary organizations have also been created. Rotary Medical Lending, that loans medical equipment to those recovering from injury or medical procedures and WMV Rotary Foundation that has provided over $600,000.00 in scholarships to high school seniors for college or technical training. Through the years the Rotary club itself has accomplished many projects to improve our community and the World, recent examples are the Planet Walk and support of Ukrainian orphans.

Like many other non-profit organizations, Covid-19 has hurt membership and funding. The Rotary Club has 29 members but only 11-16 are actively participating. These are the people who run the Rotary Club and the 3 associated non-profits.

 Mid 2023, the primary funding organizations for the Rotary Van Service notified the board that our funding would be cut in half. This meant we would have to make cost-cutting changes and find new funding to continue our operations.

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On June 10 the Board was notified of potential misuse of fuel charges by our administrator. The Board then spent many hours investigating and determining the amount of unauthorized fuel costs. The Administrator was apprised of the unauthorized fuel costs and agreed to repay Service for the ‘misunderstanding’. Further investigation then revealed an unauthorized $1000.00 independent contractor payment to her. The Board then instigated several financial protections (removal of debit card, no check signing, an MOU that stated any past or future evidence of malfeasance would result in termination). The Board identified, investigated and pursued remedies for the problems it discovered. The Board acted in good conscience but was naïve and was not aware of the fiduciary requirements to notify the funding organizations of any possible malfeasance.

On a January 8th meeting with our primary funders, the Board was advised that all funding would be immediately cancelled because a whistleblower had advised them of the administrator’s malfeasance and we did not report it to the Organizations.  We were also advised there would be no appeal and the decisions were final.

The Board had already been seeking new funding, through grants and donations, and major cost-cutting procedures to enable the Rotary Van Service to continue its altruistic service to the community. The immediate loss of funding was devastating. The Board tried to solve what they saw as an internal problem and there was certainly no intent to deceive or not be transparent. The administrator paid the Van Service all that was owed ($2135.26) and the position was later terminated.  An independent accounting service will be performing an audit of 2023, new policy changes will be made to correct the potential problems that were exposed and any future evidence of malfeasance will be handled by the Sheriff’s office.

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The Rotary Club (organized in 1968) and its associates have been a vital part of improving our community for many years. It’s our turn to ask you for help.  We need new Rotarians to allow us to continue our work and the Rotary Van Service needs volunteer drivers, administrator, dispatcher, donations and other sources of funding and support from the community.

The Van Service will continue to provide services, although on a limited basis, until we have adequate resources ( funding and personnel). Medicaid, veteran, payment for trips and sponsored trips (individual or group) riders will continue to be transported. As before, our goal, with your support, is to provide the necessary transportation needs for our community, whether that is through the Rotary Van Service or another transportation entity.

WMV Rotary Community Service, Inc.

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