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Questions over finances remain as onePULSE Foundation moves to dissolve organization

ORLANDO, Fla. — Dozens of Pulse Nightclub shooting survivors and victims’ families are asking how money donated to the OnePULSE Foundation was spent and where the remaining money is going.

OnePULSE Foundation announced Wednesday morning that the organization will dissolve. The trustees made the decision Tuesday night.

Since the Foundation was formed in 2016, its mission has been to build a memorial and museum to honor the victims of the Pulse Nightclub shooting.

49 people were killed and 53 more injured on June 12, 2016.

The Foundation said unanticipated challenges over the last few years impacted their fundraising efforts.

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Last month, OnePULSE announced they would no longer build the museum.

“It’s like you want to cry one moment you wanna be happy the next you wanna be angry, so I think I’m just processing it,” said Darelis Torres, a Pulse Nightclub shooting survivor, talking about the mixed emotions hearing OnePulse is shutting down.

Over 160 Pulse shooting survivors and victims’ families are doubling down on their request to officials, demanding a forensic audit into OnePulse Foundation on how every penny of donations and grants were spent.

“You know, even though the foundation has been closed we still want to make sure that there is accountability there,” said Torres said.

Yolanda Londoño, onePULSE Foundation Board spokesperson, said in a statement, the foundation “will continue to answer questions and offer complete transparency on our activities and financial information,” during the process.

Read: Orange County says onePULSE Foundation violated TDT agreement

9Investigates took a closer look at OnePulse’s financial documents reported to the government.

It shows as of last year, OnePulse’s assets added up to nearly $7 million dollars.

Since 2018, OnePULSE Foundation reported taking in over $18 million in donations and grants.

For the 2022 tax year, OnePULSE reported $2.2 million in donations.

“What did they do with all that money? All of the money that was raised, donated and given?” said Tiara Parker, a Pulse shooting survivor.

Read: onePULSE Foundation moves to dissolve organization

Channel 9 asked OnePULSE Wednesday— Where will the money from fundraising go? Will it be returned to the donors?

OnePULSE responded with an automated email saying they won’t be back in the office until Monday. But financial document show how OnePULSE spent some money in previous years.

For instance, in 2022 OnePULSE spent $3.4 million. $1.3 million went to salaries and employee benefits.

Channel 9 found roughly a quarter of OnePULSE’s expenses last year went to “executive compensation”—$828,000 split among five salaries. Barbara Poma, the founder and former CEO of OnePULSE, earned the most out of the salaries, $248,000, according to the financial documents.

County Funds

Pulse shooting survivors are also asking how OnePULSE spent county funds.

In 2018, Orange County allocated $10 million of Tourist Development Tax money to OnePULSE for the museum project. Orange County confirmed that $6.5 million of that money has already been spent.

“I want to say that seven long years of what your overall mission should’ve been, which was to honor the survivors and victims of the shooting, we have yet to see anything,” Parker said.

$3.5 million was used to purchase the property on Kaley Street for the museum. Then, OnePULSE spent $3 million of the $4.5 million allotted for design fees, Orange County says.

The question many survivors and victims’ families are asking is how the foundation spent $3 million on design fees.

“So all of this money, but no actual work to show for it being done? That’s not right,” Parker said.

Of that, the majority of the design funds, more than $800,000, went to an Orlando architect firm for project designing a master plan. Then, OnePULSE paid more than $600,000 for exhibition design and master storytelling to a New York group.

Read: OnePULSE Foundation scraps museum plans worth $6.5 million of Orange County funding

Roughly $500,000 went to another company for design of a tribute wall and mural.

OnePulse spent nearly $150,000 to hire a New York based design group that specializes in project management. OnePULSE described the group as country’s leading independent architect selection firm, in a 2019 press release.

The group helped coordinate an international design competition among six architect firms to come up with the design of the museum. Records show OnePulse spent nearly $250,000 in architect fees and costs for the international design competition.

The breakdown of OnePULSE’s expenses mainly list companies and firms, except for one woman, Pamela Schwartz, the Executive Director of the Orange County Regional History Center. Invoices show she was paid more than $86,000 for museum planning by OnePULSE.

OnePULSE said they plan to offer the city of Orlando and Orange County the existing design plans. Orange County is set to discuss OnePULSE’s Tourist Development Tax dollars next Tuesday.

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