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North Bay Business Journal

Wednesday, September 19, 2012, 12:45 pm

College of Marin Foundation board resigns amid audit

Foundation board, college at odds over donor intent for funds

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    KENTFIELD — The nine board members of the College of Marin Foundation, an independent nonprofit fundraising body that supports programs at the College of Marin, unexpectedly resigned Tuesday, prior to the completion of an independent financial audit.

    In a letter to college President David Wain Coon, the nearly 50-year-old foundation claims that college Board of Trustees was working aggressively to take control of the organization’s $1.8 million in charitable donations without ensuring those donations would be used for intended charitable purposes.

    In a statement, the college said that it has at no point requested that those funds be used for any purpose other than the donors’ intent.

    College of Marin hired accounting and audit firm KPMG LLP earlier this year to examine the foundation’s financial practices, following allegations of excessive expenses and misuse of restricted funds for administrative purposes. Records requests by KPMG created “significant legal and accounting expenses,” as well as disrupting regular operations, according to the foundation.

    The organization, whose leadership joined between late 2011 and June of this year, claims that it was actively working to reform long-running financial practices prior to the audit. At the core of its complaint is that transferring its charitable assets to the college would allow those funds to be used for purposes outside of the original intent, such as capital improvements.

    The college received a warning in February from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, Western Association of Schools and Colleges, requiring that six areas be improved by Oct. 15. If not improved, those complaints could eventually lead to sanctions that could result in a possible loss of accreditation.

    In resigning, the board claims that its ex-officio directors, Dr. Coon and college board of directors President Diana Conti, must determine and honor donor intent for those funds and complete the audit and financial reconciliation.

    The foundation has provided about $600,000 in annual scholarships, book grants, emergency loans and transportation aid to students, according to the letter.

    In a statement, the college noted that it would make audit findings public when they are available.

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