Orange County Register Questions Ron Thomas's Nonprofit Status

R. Scott Moxley
Questions about the money raised by the Kelly Thomas Memorial Foundation and how it's being spent continue to swirl. Two weeks ago, the Weekly wrote about a scuffle of words between Ron Thomas,  father of slain homeless man Kelly Thomas, and Stephan Baxter, organizer of Art With an Agenda. The July art show was held to benefit KTMF and raised $10,000 for the foundation. But as of two weeks ago Baxter, as well as members of Kelly's Army wanted to know where a chunk of that money--promised by Thomas to local charities-- had gone.

Today, the Orange County Register weighed in with questions of its own.


In a piece that focused on the foundation's non-profit status, the Reg accused Thomas of being less than forthcoming about the group's finances. 

Though neither he or his attorney Garo Mardirossian satisfied Reg requests for an IRS Form 1023, which all non-profit foundations are legally required to have, a defiant sounding Thomas maintained that the foundation's activities are legal.

"If you can't find it, that's not our problem," Thomas told the Reg. "We'll let you make fools of yourselves."

When reporters told Thomas of the urgency of their request, he responded, "What do we owe you? Do we owe you something? To the Orange County Register?"

You can't blame Ron for being skeptical of a Reg reporter's questions--this is the paper, after all, who initially bought all the bullshit spun at them by the Fullerton Police Department and whom still has in its payroll infamous bootlicker David Whiting. So thinking perhaps their requests were unreasonable, the Reg consulted a non-profit watchdog called Charity Navigator whose Vice President Sandra Miniutti responded via email. 

"All tax exempt organizations have to provide copies of their form 1023," Miniutti wrote. "However, an organization that has not yet been recognized as tax exempt is not required to provide a copy of its pending form 1023. Of course, that doesn't apply here b/c the group is telling you that they did get nonprofit status."

The webpage for KTMF, started by Thomas in 2011, clearly states it is a non-profit organization and that it's dedicated to serving homeless men women and children of Orange County. However it is not listed on the state's registry of charitable organizations. 

Screenshot taken from Kelly Thomas Memorial Foundation page.

Taking issue with Thomas's refusal to turn over the requested documentation, the Reg, with typical right-wing flair wrote, " Tax exempt organizations, and their donors, are getting a break from the government. They don't have to pay taxes on their revenues, and their donors get to subtract from their taxable income. That's a privilege, and the responsibility that comes with that privilege is that exempt organizations must spend their money wisely, and for good works. That's why nonprofit are required by law to file financial information with the IRS--so the public, and donors, and yes, even the Register, can see with a reasonable degree of transparency how that money is being handled."

 And there you have it. The Orange County Register: unlikely voice of reason.
 
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