ORLANDO, Fla. — Weeks after Orange County said onePULSE Foundation violated their agreement, new documents obtained by 9 Investigates raise questions about the Foundation’s financial dealings.
9 Investigates went through dozens of pages of records and found more than $100,000 that was not authorized.
Orange County released four license agreements that the onePULSE Foundation entered into to rent the property at 438 W Kaley Street.
The property was supposed to be the site of the National Pulse Museum, remembering the 49 lives lost.
Orange County gave onePULSE Foundation $3.5 million of tourist development tax funds to purchase the property.
But as recent as November, this warehouse on Kaley Street was not closer to being a museum, with cars in the parking lot and a trailer waiting by a loading dock.
9 Investigates found if all agreements were paid fully, onePULSE would have received up to $129,617 in a little over a year by renting out the property without the county’s approval.
It’s money that Orange County said should not have been part of the Foundation’s activities, at least in the last year.
Orange County said it did not know onePULSE leased out the property until mid-October when a former onePULSE employee notified staff.
Zachary Blair, president of VictimsFirst, a group that represents Pulse shooting survivors and victims’ families, also notified the county. Blair shared a video to the county of what looked like a busy warehouse.
According to the county’s agreement, the property could only be used for the museum unless the county approved it.
“And who knows where that money went,” Blair said.
The first two license agreements are from April and August 2022.
OnePULSE Foundation agreed to rent out storage and loading dock space for $7,500 a month, adding up to about $90,000 for the year.
OnePULSE also agreed to rent out the parking space—totaling more than $11,000.
Both agreements were signed by Barbara Poma, the founder and former CEO of the onePULSE Foundation.
Less than a year later, two more agreements were signed by onePULSE Foundation for the parking lot and more warehouse space and signed by then executive director Deborah Bowie.
We asked onePULSE how that money was used and why it entered into the agreements without county approval.
The Foundation responded but did not answer our questions.
“There’s no clarity on how this money was spent at all,” Blair said. “There’s no transparency.”
Barbara Poma says the Foundation leased out the property to “offset property taxes” and thought leasing the property would not be in violation of the agreement, she said in a statement.
Poma says the onePULSE Board of Trustees were “very much aware” of the license agreements, and it was included in county filings, she said in a statement to 9Investigates.
Bowie told 9 Investigates she was unaware onePULSE had to have written approval from the county to lease out the property. She said the tenants were already using the property when she took over as executive director.
She served as executive director from June 2022 to November 2023.
Bowie said she learned written approval from the county was required in October.
She said she looked for any written records on file at onePULSE Foundation, showing the county was notified, but could not find any responsive documents.
Full Statement from onePULSE:
“As you know, the onePULSE Foundation board of trustees voted recently to begin proceedings to dissolve the Foundation. That process is complex and involves many legal considerations. Part of that process involves working with Orange County to provide them with requested information and answer whatever questions they may have regarding the Kaley Street property. As this information is provided to the county, it becomes publicly available similar to the annual Form 990′s and audited financial statements that have been posted to the Foundation’s website throughout its history.”
Full Statement from Barbara Poma:
“When onePULSE Foundation purchased the museum property from the county, the pre-existing lease with The Nassal Company did not transfer with the sale. In an effort to offset the expense of property taxes, the Foundation entered into a new lease agreement based on a belief this was allowable. The Foundation Board of Trustees was very much aware of this lease agreement and information about it was included in our filings with the county.”
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