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Davis Vanguard IRS Disclosure Problem

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PART I: Vanguard Slams the Door on Required Public Disclosures

By Colin Walsh

On Friday, May 3rd, David Greenwald of the “The People’s Vanguard of Davis,” a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt company, refused to turn over nonprofit tax documentation. This appears to violate U.S Department of Treasury regulations and adopted Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidelines. As stated on the IRS website [my emphasis]: “tax-exempt organizations must make available for public inspection certain annual returns and applications for exemption, and must provide copies of such returns and applications to individuals who request them. Copies usually must be provided immediately in the case of in-person requests, and within 30 days in the case of written requests.” The IRS website provides more detail about the types of documentation that 501c3 nonprofits like the Vanguard are required to provide.

On Friday afternoon at about 4:10PM, Rik Keller and I visited the Vanguard office, located on the second floor of 221 G Street in downtown Davis. David Greenwald opened the door shortly after Keller knocked. At first it looked as though Greenwald would invite us in as he has previous times I have visited the Vanguard offices, but as we stepped forward Greenwald moved to block the entrance.

Keller then stated that he was there to get the documents he had previously requested. Greenwald responded brusquely, “30 days.” Keller stated that as a nonprofit the Vanguard was required by law to make certain documentation immediately available for inspection upon an in-person request. Greenwald stated that he did not have the documents there in the office.

Keller pointed out that he had emailed Greenwald and other Vanguard board members a week earlier and Greenwald had been notified a couple of times that the documents were going to be requested in person. Keller informed Greenwald that not providing the documents was a violation of nonprofit law and asked him if he was aware of that. Greenwald replied “OK”.

Keller then told Greenwald he would repeat the request again in writing but would expect the documents to be released to him in person next week when he would return. Greenwald’s reply was “enjoy.”

The Vanguard Literally and Figuratively Slams the Door

Without warning Greenwald then slammed the office door, forcefully striking Keller’s foot that was partway in the doorway. Greenwald continued to apply pressure to the door, trapping Keller’s foot between the lower part of the door and the carpet. Greenwald then yelled “I AM GOING TO CALL THE COPS!” Keller managed to wriggle his foot free, and the door slammed closed with a thud.

The Information Request

On Friday 4/26/2019 via email Keller requested the following information from Vanguard representatives David Greenwald, CEO/Board Member; Cecilia Escamilla-Greenwald, Secretary/Board Member; and Robert Canning, CFO/Treasurer/Board Member/Editorial Board Member:

  • IRS Form 990s (including any supporting documents) for the most recent three years
  • Board meetings, meeting notices, and minutes for the most recent three years
  • The organization bylaws
  • A complete listing of organizational structure, including officers and Board members and contact information.

This information request is directly connected to the investigative work that Keller and others (including myself) have been performing to publicly document possible ethical and legal violations by both the Vanguard and the Davis City Council in relation to a planned upcoming fundraiser that the Vanguard has advertised, summarized in this article he co-authored with me and Roberta Millstein on the Davisite website. Other public coverage of this has included a Sunday front-page article in the Davis Enterprise a week ago reported by Tanya Perez and two op-eds written by Davis Enterprise staff (“Our View”, Dunning).

Keller has also commented in public forums and directly to Vanguard Officers/Board Members/Editorial Board Members about the Davis Vanguard’s direct involvement in the Yes on Measure L campaign on last fall’s local ballot. And he has attempted to obtain information to try to determine the full extent of the money that the Vanguard received from campaign proponents and connected entities. He has also used email, messages, and public forum postings to call for the Vanguard to adopt principles /policies/guidelines regarding ethical journalistic practices and funding/donor transparency, including standards and guidelines advocated by the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and the Institute for Nonprofit News (INN).

Keller stated in his original 4/26 email request, “I would prefer to receive these material in PDFs via email, but if I am required to go to the Vanguard office to request them in person to receive printed copies immediately, I will do so.”

There was no response from Vanguard officers/Board members, so Keller followed up with direct messages the next week to Greenwald on Tuesday, April 30th, and Wednesday, May 1st, inquiring about a convenient time to pick up the requested documents in person. He also sent a separate email on Thursday, May 2nd, to Vanguard CFO/Treasurer/Board Member/Editorial Board Member Robert Canning asking for the documents. Canning also did not respond. Keller then contacted me to accompany him on his visit on the Vanguard office because he said he was concerned that Greenwald would attempt to mischaracterize the interaction.

Note: Davis Vanguard officers/Board members Greenwald , Escamilla Greenwald and Canning have not replied to an email asking for comment on their organizations denial of the information request for this article series made on Saturday morning, May 4th. Instead, attorney Paul Boylan responded, “on behalf of David Greenwald.” Boylan makes several claims in his response email that are difficult to reconcile with what I witnessed and with what the IRS requires. His response also included a link to a new Vanguard web page containing some IRS tax information. Part II of this article will cover Boylan's response; his demands; and a brief discussion of nonprofit organizations, openness and transparency, and the public trust.

 

Comments

Rik Keller

Colin, thanks for taking the time to document this serious violations of IRS nonprofit disclosure rules as well as the general pattern of the Davis Vanguard being less than forthcoming about its activities, funding, and donors, and even about the identities of its Board of Directors.

Roberta L. Millstein

Seems the Vanguard isn’t getting very good legal advice. Or maybe they aren’t getting legal advice at all?

Eric Gelber

As a disinterested party I found the tone and content of this post to be unseemly and unnecessarily snarky. In quoting from the IRS website, the author failed to note that the excerpt goes on to say that “The IRS must also make this same information publicly available” and that much of the documentation is available from the IRS on line. Thus, this whole “newsworthy” incident was likely avoidable. Also, making a written request, which has a 30-day response time, and then changing course by making an in-person request and insisting on immediate access, appears to have been intentionally provocative.

Unless and until there’s something substantive to report on here, I’d suggest holding off on what could be viewed as the spreading self-serving dirt about a rival blog.

Civil Discourse

"Copies usually must be provided immediately..."

"Usually" being the key word here. I don't think you have a case, despite the dramatic investigative foot- in-the-door theatrics.

Colin Walsh

Eric,
Thanks for your comment.
I want to make clear to you that the Vanguard information available on line from both the CA Secretary of State and the IRS is incomplete and out of date. In other words the information Keller has been requesting WAS NOT and IS NOT currently publicly available.

I also want to make clear that Keller not only made a written request, but notified the Vanguard over a week in advance that he would be coming by to inspect the records in person. The Vanguard has never even replied to ANY of his messages. providing true disclosure is entirely up to the Vanguard.

As far as rivalry, that's kind of funny. I occasionally write in my free time, and the Vanguard is David Greenwald's full time job that he claims to spend 100 hours a week on.

From my perspective, if self proclaimed Non-profit "News organization" in Davis is acting improperly, while trying to influence elections and local government, I am going to look into it, and I am going to write about it.

as far as snark, I will let the very straight forward article speak for itself.

Rik Keller

Eric: the information requested was not available publicly. Information that is available is out of date. Just as one example, the most recent Form 990 available through the IRS is from 2016.

There was no response whatsoever to repeated written information requests to Vanguard officers.

Nonprofit orgs are required by the IRS to have certain documents available for public inspection. This is because the public in general are the “owners” of the nonprofit and nonprofits are required to act in the public trust.

Rik Keller

I am wondering if the anonymous commenter "Civil Discourse" would like to elaborate on their contention that the IRS website phrase "Copies usually must be provided immediately in the case of in-person requests" does not apply in this case. What unusual circumstances exist in this case specified under IRS guidelines/rules/regulations that would relieve the Davis Vanguard from its responsibilities?

It should be noted that the Vanguard or their attorney did not make any arguments to this effect. It would be interesting to hear the details if they did.

Ron O

Colin and Rik: Thanks for your work, regarding this. It's unfortunate how this turned out.

It sure would be easier for all, if the information was simply provided.

If the documentation is not provided, what are your next steps? For example, are you planning to report this to the IRS?

By the way - is Boylan a different attorney than the one who commented on here last time, without identifying his relationship with the Vanguard as I recall?

Ron O

Well, I just posted a brief reference to this article, in a related article on the Vanguard. However, it appears to have been immediately deleted.

I'm pretty sure that the Vanguard previously allowed references to the Davisite, as long as the specific name (or link) wasn't provided. I guess that's no longer the case, and appears to be another example of "on-the-fly" moderation practices of the Vanguard.

Perhaps their moderation policy is dependent upon upon how sensitive the subject matter is?

Rik Keller

Ron O: That is the very same Paul Boylan who commented on the Davisite article on the ethical issues about the Davis Vanguard fundraiser and who never stated that he is their attorney and then, when the issue was raised by others, stated that he was “not representing either the Vanguard or Mr. Greenwald here for any purpose.”

Notification of the IRS is certainly in order, as is notification of the members of the Davis Vanguard Board of Directors to ensure that they fulfill their duty to the public that they are entrusted with that laws and regulations are being followed.

As the National Council of Nonprofits states:

- "Nonprofits are required to disclose certain financial information to the public upon request; board members have access to financial information in order to fulfill their fiduciary duty to the nonprofit."

- "America’s charitable nonprofits rely on the public trust to do their work. That is why it is so important that charitable nonprofits continuously earn the public’s trust through their commitment to ethical principles, transparency, and accountability."

And this issue goes far beyond narrow disclosure requirements, "Nonprofits must observe both legal and ethical standards of financial transparency. In the United States, specific IRS-required legal obligations stem from the tax-exempt status of nonprofits. Ethical obligations are less strict, intended to honor the public trust poured into nonprofits."

Nora Oldwin

Question- Has anyone clarified whether the requested documentation is actually available from David? Just based on my own experience, I understand that the IRS can be incredibly slow, and at times incredibly confused. They lost my 2014 returns for three years, as one example, during which time they maintained that I owed ever-increasing fines and interest notwithstanding numerous attempts to expose the mistake as their own. Is everyone satisfied that disclosure is actually a possibility and that the IRS is not implicated in the response to the request by the Davisite?

Colin Walsh

Hi Nora,
Maybe I am not quite sure what you are asking. Rik has emailed and messaged David and the Vanguard Board repeatedly, Neither David or the board have ever responded. Then when Rik went to the office in person (something provided for in the IRS rules) the door was slammed in his face.

Nora Oldwin

In other words, as no conversation was had concerning the document requests, there's no real consensus about the reason(s) the documents have not been made available. . . is that accurate?

Rik Keller

Nora O. said "In other words, as no conversation was had concerning the document requests, there's no real consensus about the reason(s) the documents have not been made available. . . is that accurate?

No that is not at all accurate. There is much more to the story. Colin is apparently publishing a Part II to this in a day or two. Beyond not immediately providing inspection of the documents on the premises to any member of the public upon in-person request, as required by federal regulations and rules, Greenwald also stated that the documents weren't there in the first place, which is another violation.

In the meantime, what I can tell you--and as alluded to in the bottom of this article--is that the Vanguard's attorney has sent me numerous emails about the document requests since Friday afternoon and made a series of accusations and threats against me an attempt to quash the inquiries. And he has denied that the Vanguard has to follow the law (although he was apparently so unfamiliar with federal laws governing nonprofit disclosures that this second part could have been from ignorance as much as malice).

Ron O

Nora: Seems to me that David "communicated" quite clearly, by blocking the entrance and slamming the door when the documents were requested in-person. (Despite the apparent request/attempts to establish a convenient time, made in advance of the visit.)

Based upon David's reported comment (e.g., "enjoy"), I'd be surprised if he made the documents available for Rik's next planned visit, either ("next week"). Hopefully, it won't escalate into something more serious than slamming a door on someone's foot.

I guess we'll see how he responds to that upcoming request, or to the written request.

Matt Williams

As a former member of the Vanguard Editorial Board, as well as for a number of years the (passive) Treasurer of the 401-C Board of the Vanguard, I do have a fair amount of first-hand information pertinent to this article.

First, Paul Boylan is not "the Vanguard's attorney" but rather does ad-hoc legal work for the Vanguard on an as requested basis, so with respect to Ron O's 4;29pm comment, my experience has been that if there was no active ad-hoc work being done by Boylan for the Vanguard, no disclosure would have been warranted.

Second, my personal opinion is that no positive purpose can be achieved by this continued and continuing effort to get the Vanguard to communicate with either Colin or Rik. Any bridges that may have at one time existed have long since been burnt. The relationship is wholly and completely polarized. Mutual trust is non existent. So unless the purpose of the pursuit is to communicate with some audience other than David Greenwald, then I suggest you stop beating your heads against the wall.

JMO

Jeff Shaw

I came here from a post on facebook, and subsequent conversation there with Rik. In regards to the 2016 990 filing - it was just processed in 2018. That leads me to believe the reason Vanguard hasn't given you the most current 990 filings is because they aren't done, submitted, or processed yet. If not submitted, the IRS may issue a fine, or not, and that should be it. If not processed, maybe there is an issue with them being ironed out by the Vanguard and IRS. The entire premise that there is a violation in public disclosure is based on the assumption that these 990's have actually been submitted to the IRS in the first place. If there is evidence that they actually exist, that would be the basis for the allegation of not disclosing them.

Rik Keller

Matt Williams: you seem to be conducting a hair-splitting exercise in regards to Paul Boylan’s relationship with the the Vanguard. If someone aggressively defends the actions of an organization in an on-line forum and then also gets on the personal “wall” of one of the authors of a Davisite article and posts over three-dozen harassing and insulting comments, one would expect such a person to disclose their ongoing business relationship (and relationship as a major donor) with said organization.

This was a straightforward information request that is a basic obligation under federal law for the Vanguard to fulfill. It should have been a non-issue. For some reason the Vanguard decided to turn it into an issue.

Greenwald’s hostile actions and the subsequent false and reckless accusations directed at me by the Vanguard’s attorney are purposely designed to chill legitimate public inquiry into the Vanguard’s public activities. And speaking of “trust”, I would hope that the Davis Vanguard Board of Directors follow through on their public responsibility to ensure that the organization acts in the public interest and deserves the public’s trust.

With your “first-hand information” as to the workings of the Vanguard perhaps you can inform us as to any legitimate purpose the organization would have in hiding the identities of its Board of Directors? Can you tell us whether the Vanguard even has adopted bylaws in place? Has it adopted any guidelines/policies/rules in regards to ethics, integrity, and transparency?

Rik Keller

Jeff S.: I would note that your FB comments started off with “Guess the Davisite guys haven't heard of google,” and then provided 3rd party link with the 2016 IRS Form 990.

That seemed all good-natured ribbing. And in the same spirit, I pointed out that is an old document and also challenged you to try to Google an updated list of the Vanguard Board members (hint: this is unavailable).

I have information now that the 2016 IRS filing is not the most current one. The Vanguard is withholding information and access to its offices that Federal rules and regulations require it to provide.

Matt Williams

Rik Keller: This was a straightforward information request that is a basic obligation under federal law for the Vanguard to fulfill.

I agree. I have no problem with the request. The choice of confrontational delivery by the principles directly rather than submitting the request through governmental channels is where you and I part ways. The chances of such an unscheduled, confrontational visit happening without polarization on both sides of the visit were somewhere between slim and none, and none has left the building.

Governmental channels exist for this type of request. My persona approach would have been to have submitted it, and then waited for the government to provide the requested information.

Your handling of the unannounced confrontation indicates that you believe a crisis exists that needs to be addressed yesterday, if not sooner. I suspect that many people in Davis, perhaps the majority of people in Davis, would disagree that a crisis vis-a-vis that information exists.

That is my personal opinion. I don't expect you to agree with it. That is your prerogative.

Matt Williams

Principals, not Principles.

Matt Williams

Rik Keller: With your “first-hand information” as to the workings of the Vanguard perhaps you can inform us as to (1) any legitimate purpose the organization would have in hiding the identities of its Board of Directors? (2) Can you tell us whether the Vanguard even has adopted bylaws in place? (3) Has it adopted any guidelines/policies/rules in regards to ethics, integrity, and transparency?

I can only answer those questions based on what I knew/believed in early 2015, when I was last a member of the Editorial Board. The early 2015 answers to your three questions are (1) I know of no such purpose, (2) Yes, to the best of my knowledge, and (3) Yes, to the best of my knowledge.

Rik Keller

Matt Williams: thanks for the comments. I do disagree with you about the correct approach and your comments regarding timing. You characterization of this as a "unannounced confrontation" is both factually and tonally wrong. My visit was both announced and was part of standard procedures as set forth under IRS rules/regulations for obtaining information in a timely manner

Please keep in mind that I am seeking this information in the context of an upcoming fundraiser later this month for which I and others have pointed out ethical and legal problems involving both the Vanguard and the City Council. See this article for background and further links as well as the positive solutions that we are proposing: https://www.davisite.org/2019/04/davis-enterprise-chastises-city-council-and-davis-vanguard.html

Basic information including even the identity of Board members has been withheld from the public by the Vanguard. Robert Canning, current Vanguard CFO/Treasurer/Board member/Editorial Board member, suggested that I should contact the Board with my recommendations (though he did not provide their names). The current IRS Form 990 would have that information and was part of my information request. So no, it is not an "emergency" as you phrase it, but in order for me to address these issues before the next City Council meeting on 5/14 and with the Vanguard Board before the event on 5/19, the timely provision of information is needed.

As this article indicates, I made my initial request via email on 4/24. Furthermore I stated in my email that I would prefer to receive records via email if it could be done in a timely manner, and that I would visit the office for the records only if this request would not be accommodated..

Only after a week went by with followups ignored--including ones requesting a convenient time for Greenwald to accomodate my request--I followed the IRS provisions for obtaining documents in-person in a timely manner. There should have been no issue with this, as this is part of the standard everyday public obligations that nonprofits have.

Note also that the IRS rules allow for the nonprofit employees to remain on the premises while a member of the public inspects their records, so Greenwald would even have been allowed to stay in the office to supervise while I did so, which should have allayed any concerns he might have had.

Matt Williams

Rik Keller: My visit was both announced and was part of standard procedures as set forth under IRS rules/regulations for obtaining information in a timely manner.

Did you confirm an appointment? Do you have an electronic receipt that shows that your announcement was received? You reference a 4/24 e-mail you sent. Did you send it "return receipt requested"?

I'm assuming that the answers to those two questions are both "No" so any assumption that the meeting was "announced" is probably unilateral.

Rik Keller: So no, it is not an "emergency" as you phrase it, but in order for me to address these issues before the next City Council meeting on 5/14 and with the Vanguard Board before the event on 5/19, the timely provision of information is needed.

Your comments to the City Council on 5/14 are unlikely to be substantively changed by either the presence or absence of the requested information. Your fundamental point does not rest on any of the pieces of information you are requesting. As they say "The Show will go on" regardless.

This all comes across like the actions of a Georgia legume farmer at harvest time.

Rik Keller

Matt Williams: you are making broad and false assumptions about an event for which you only have secondhand knowledge of some details. Just as one example: I confirmed the receipts of my email request and my visit timing plans . Your presupposition ("I'm assuming that the answers to those two questions are both "No"") is flat-out wrong.|

My recommendation to you is to re-focus on the larger issues of access, transparency, openness, legal requirements, and ethics.

Eric Gelber

I reiterate my view that, through the public airing of this one-sided account of a confrontation, this matter has become unnecessarily adversarial and potentially unfairly presented. If it is believed that exempt organization documentation hasn’t been provided as required, there is a process in place for following up. It entails contacting the IRS Exempt Organization Classification office, which will then contact the organization to make arrangements for inspection of the documents. See: https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/exempt-organization-public-disclosure-and-availability-requirements. (Among other things, the information on this website says that “immediate” access “generally” means same-day access, not on-the-spot access. So neither party may have been totally blameless here.)

I don’t question the legitimacy of the underlying intent of the inquiry. But why not pursue the available process for obtaining documents and then, once the information is received, and if it evinces some noncompliance issues of public interest, address them at that time?

Matt Williams

I concur with Eric ... If it is believed that exempt organization documentation hasn’t been provided as required, there is a process in place for following up. It entails contacting the IRS Exempt Organization Classification office, which will then contact the organization to make arrangements for inspection of the documents.

Said another way, this appears to be an attempt to try the case in the court of public opinion rather than the court of law.

Rik Keller

Eric Gelber: to clarify, the reason that the phrase "generally" is used on the IRS website is that under very specific circumstances (e.g. specific types of documents) for certain types of organizations (e.g. private foundations), the "immediate" clause does not apply (I can provide CFR references and links to IRS Final Rules if you want). Those circumstances are not applicable here so "immediate" is the operative requirement in the regulations in this case without qualification (as it is in the vast majority of circumstances for tax-exempt/nonprofit orgs).

The broader point is that the Vanguard denied a lawful public information request that was made under standard provisions in federal law. When you say "why not pursue the available process for obtaining documents...?," I did exactly that: The process as laid forth in IRS rules and regulations is that if somebody wants immediate access to the documents, they show up in-person and ask and they are allowed to inspect them on the premises.

I would add that rather than exercising the right of any member of the public to show up at any time without warning during regular business hours and request an on-premises inspection of the documents, I went way out of my way to provide the Vanguard with plenty of time, advance warning, and multiple options to fulfill my request that would not even have required a visit. They chose not to comply with the law.

This should have been a straightforward non-issue. But through their hostility and obstructionism both on the scene and subsequently from threats and false accusations from their attorney, the Vanguard unfortunately decided to turn it into one.

Rik Keller

Matt Williams said: "If it is believed that exempt organization documentation hasn’t been provided as required, there is a process in place for following up. It entails contacting the IRS Exempt Organization Classification office."

The Vanguard illegally blocked a public inspection of records on their premises as when Greenwald stated that the documents weren't there and when he slammed the door of the office. Are you saying that the failure of an organization established in the public trust to comply with disclosure laws to a member of the public (and part-time journalist) doesn't warrant a public disclosure? I should just report them to the IRS and keep quiet about it?

And since my inquiry is directly related to the uncovering of possible ethical and legal violations by the Vanguard and the City Council in regards to an upcoming planned fundraiser, I suppose I should have just kept quiet about that too and not spoken in front of City Council? And the Davis Enterprise should have kept quiet and not published a front page Sunday article and two separate staff op-eds on the issue too, presumably? And I should not have talked to reporters from other publications who are interested in covering this issue? And if the Vanguard itself uncovered a possible violation by a public organization, your view is that they should not publish this either?

What is your theory behind the propriety of you yourself providing comments in a public forum about this subject? Especially your theory about how you justify false assumptions that you accused me of about what I did or didn't do. If you think something illegal was done, wouldn't your advice to yourself be to be quiet about it and just report it to the proper authorities?

My re-recommendation to you is to re-focus on the larger issues of access, transparency, openness, legal requirements, and ethics. Here are some ethical guidelines from the Society of Professional Journalists to consider in the context of the larger issues:

Be Accountable and Transparent
Ethical journalism means taking responsibility for one’s work and explaining one’s decisions to the public.

Journalists should:

– Explain ethical choices and processes to audiences. Encourage a civil dialogue with the public about journalistic practices, coverage and news content.

– Expose unethical conduct in journalism, including within their organizations.

– Abide by the same high standards they expect of others.

Matt Williams

Rik Keller: I confirmed the receipts of my email request and my visit timing plans.

Confirmed them with whom?

Rik Keller

Matt Williams asked "Confirmed them with whom?"

This is getting ridiculous. Do you fancy yourself some sort of private investigator? Among other ways I confirmed the receipt of my messages, the Vanguard's attorney quoted my information requests back to me. This raises an interesting question that you should investigate: why/how would he have this information if he is not acting as the Vanguard's attorney in this matter as you stated?

My re-re-recommendation to you is to re-focus on the larger issues of access, transparency, openness, legal requirements, and ethics.

Matt Williams

You may think it is ridiculous. I simply see it as due diligence.

Your evidence of confirmation of the receipt of the e-mails is compelling. Thank you for that. Did you confirm the appointment for the onsite visit with Paul Boylan as well?

I did not say Paul was not acting in this specific matter. What I said was that the Vanguard has no regular attorney, and uses Paul, or alternatively other attorneys depending of the issue, on an ad hoc basis. Given Paul's expertise in public disclosure issues, it is quite logical that he has been retained ad hoc for this matter.

You and Colin are providing an abundance of focus on the issues of access, transparency, openness, legal requirements, and ethics. I defer to your passionate commitment to that pursuit in this matter.

As I have said before, I have no problem with your making the request. Your choice of a confrontational delivery by the principals directly rather than submitting the request through governmental channels is where you and I part ways.

Rik Keller


Matt Williams : “due diligence” on your part now? After you already made prior false assumptions about my actions with no diligence whatsoever?

You’ve been very passionate in repeating your conjectures that the Vanguard did not get my information requests. Is this the story that anyone representing the Vanguard is using ?

It is notable that your characterization of an in-person “confrontation” on my part accord with the false accusations of the Vanguard attorney. Here’s how federal law REQUIRES that requests be made if timeliness is desired for whatever reason:

“The request... must be made in person or in writing. If such request is made in person, such copy shall be provided immediately and, if made in writing, shall be provided within 30 days.”

You have made an unfounded presumption that a “crisis” must exist for someone to make an in-person inspection of tax-exempt organization’s records. Can you tell us where you got such a presumption? Or are you just trying to muddy the waters?

To re-focus: can you tell us the basic principles behind why tax-exempt orgs are required to provide in-person public access to their premises and records in the first place?

Matt Williams

Rik, reading is fundamental. You should try and practice it. I did not say a "crisis" needed to exist. I said you were acting as if a crisis does exist.

I have also said very clearly twice, now three times that have no problem with your making the request. So your "refocus" question in your last paragraph is moot.

Where you and I differ is with your choice of a confrontational in-person delivery by the principals directly rather than submitting the request through governmental channels.

You subjectively see your relationship with the Vanguard as a battle/war, and you are mustering every available weapon to deploy in that battle/war. It is personal for you. I (and lots of others) get that, and simply see the issue much more dispassionately than you do.

You are busy trying to get me, and others, to share your passion. That simply isn't going to happen, no matter how hard and/or how often you try. For me, it is never going to be personal, the way it is for you.

Daniel Cornford

I have been out of town and I am too rushed to make extensive comment at the moment. In brief: I applaud the efforts of Colin and Rik to make the DV comply with IRS non-profit rules, and, by extension to making the “workings” of the DV transparent in themselves and as they may relate to the actions of our city council over many years, not to mention the May 19 fundraiser. While I realize that Matt Williams has had his differences with the DV, he has in general had a close and supportive relationship with them. It is hard not to see his caviling and nitpicking re Rik and Colin efforts to obtain records as reflecting this fact.

Rik Keller

Matt Williams: I'll repeat. I followed IRS procedures for obtaining information/public inspection as laid forth in USC:
“The request... must be made in person or in writing. If such request is made in person, such copy shall be provided immediately and, if made in writing, shall be provided within 30 days.”

However you have decided to repeatedly and passionately makes personal judgments and assumptions about me in post after post here that simply aren't true. I recommend to you to try sticking to the topic instead.

You seem to be suggesting that Davis Vanguard officers received information requests from the public and threw them away without reading them. That is a serious allegation of IRS violations. If you have evidence in this regard, I'd be glad to work with you (and provide documentation of my communications) to assist you in filing an IRS complaint against the Vanguard. I'll send you an email to follow up on this so we can keep the discussion here focused on the larger issues.

One question you still haven't addressed: why/how would Paul Boylan have possession of information requests I sent solely to Vanguard officers if he is not acting as the Vanguard's attorney in this matter as you have stated?

Roberta L. Millstein

Matt, I find that I can't get worked up about the disagreement between you and Rik. After Rik's attempts to get the information by email were ignored, he followed the prescribed legal path and went in-person. You seem think he shouldn't have done that, that the situation wasn't sufficiently urgent, even though you both seem to agree that it was reasonable seek out the information. You think he should have taken a different route. I don't have much to say about that difference of opinion.

What does bother me is the accusation that this is personal for Rik. I've seen no indication of that, and I'd like to know how you'd know something like that (seems to go to his personal, internal motivations). I'd like to know why you don't simply take him at his word that the principles at stake here are important, especially since you seem to agree that the principles are important.

Increasingly I hear people say that this is "personal" or about a "competition." But there are simply no grounds for such claims. Whatever the intent of such accusations, the effect is to deflect from the issues at hand, and that bothers me deeply.

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