Utah non-profits face new state auditing scrutiny

Friday , March 28, 2014 - 12:48 PM

Tim Gurrister, Standard-Examiner Staff

BRIGHAM CITY — The resignation of the head of the battered women’s shelter here a year ago has led to new state law adding to the government oversight of non-profit corporations.

House Bill 283 passed by lawmakers in the session just ended requires audits and additional bylaws for non-profits with budgets 50 percent or more government-funded or spending plans topping $500,000 with any government contribution.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Ronda Menlove, R-Garland, said the need for the bill was provoked by the remarks of Annette Macfarlane at a Tremonton City Council meeting on March 5, 2013.

Director of the New Hope Crisis Center at the time, the battered women’s shelter in Brigham City, Macfarlane was speaking in opposition to a pork slaughterhouse proposed for Tremonton at the time. It is now sited for Brigham.

Macfarlane, according to news reports, stunned her audience by saying workers at such industrial plants were prone to domestic violence, particularly Latinos with “differing cultural values” who rent, join gangs and are “not invested in the community.” Macfarlane resigned May 1, 2013, issuing a lengthy apology.

Menlove said Macfarlane’s remarks led to a complaint filed with federal civil rights officials in Denver. They opened an investigation, even began interviewing Tremonton residents, she said, but the probe became moot with the resignation.

“That situation brought some things to my attention,” the Garland legislator said. “It wasn’t really about Annette since she resigned. It just made people in the community ask questions.

“People wondered how we oversee state dollars with non-profits. We realized we needed to introduce more accountability, to make sure we had good oversight.”

The bill requires the non-profits it covers to have bylaws in place covering the hiring and firing of administrators, requires annual reports on expenditures be provided a funding agency. Audits by a CPA are required, with sanctions to include withdrawal of funding or examination by the state auditor. “It just introduces more accountability,” Menlove said.

Ironically, the New Hope Crisis Center may not be large enough to be subjected to the bill’s provisions.

Current director Penny Evans said she is reviewing the bill, but her budget is only $400,000 and she doubts half of it comes from government agencies.

About Macfarlane, Evans said she couldn’t comment on a confidential personnel matter except to say she is no longer associated with the New Hope shelter. “I want to focus on the positive things we’re doing.”

Evans said the agency she’s worked for the last 14 years likely has the aforementioned bylaws in place already. New Hope goes through several state audits, she said, as part of a state certification process and a contract with the state Department of Human Services.

Contact reporter Tim Gurrister at 801-625-4238, tgurrister@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @tgurrister.

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