• State lawmaker calls for audit of onePULSE Foundation

    By: Jason Kelly , Lauren Seabrook

    Updated:

    ORLANDO, Fla. - Wednesday marks three years since the Pulse nightclub terror attack.

    It will likely be at least another three years until a permanent memorial opens.

    Some survivors and victims' relatives said they are concerned about the public and private dollars for this memorial going to the onePULSE Foundation.

    State Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, advocated for the state to contribute $500,000 toward the memorial, but she said the organization should be audited.


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    "At the end of the day, everyone in this community is a stakeholder," she said. "If there's any indication of lack of transparency, it's going to lead to more questions and it's going to lead to doubt."

    The organization said it is already undergoing an external audit.

    Eskamani said she has a background in nonprofits and studied responsible spending in graduate school.

    "It's really important that the overhead cost of staffing is low," she said.

    Tax forms show Pulse's owner, Barbara Poma, is the organization's sole paid employee, earning $43,000 annually.

    Read: Remembering the 49: Orlando to mark 3 years since Pulse nightclub massacre

    Eskamani said the salary is modest compared with other charities.

    She said it is also important to consider the cost of travel.

    "Are they staying at expensive places? Are they booking the most expensive flight?" she said.

    The organization said it has raised $14 million.

    "I feel pretty confident that each one of us is going to be very intentional about, not only asking for the transparency, but doing what we need to do alongside the organization to ensure that it happens," Eskamani said.

    The organization said that an audit that began in February will be finalized in July. It said that it plans to conduct annual audits.

    Read: Lawmakers propose declaring Pulse nightclub site a national memorial

    Earl Crittenden, board chairman of the onePULSE Foundation, provided Channel 9 with the following statement:

    "The leadership and staff of the onePULSE Foundation take their mission and work very seriously, and any statement that the foundation has not been transparent with our finances and the work involved in fulfilling our mission is misguided. In January of 2019, we hired the independent firm of Holland & Reilly to conduct an audit of the 2018 fiscal year. This audit was sought out by the foundation because it is in line with national best practices for nonprofit foundations. The audit began in February 2019 and will be finalized in July. We plan on conducting an independent audit each year.

    "For the 2016 and 2017 fiscal years, we have filed IRS Form 990s, which are publicly available and provide details on our work and spending in those years. As part of the process to secure funds through the Tourism Development Tax, we provided a great deal of information on our finances and our work. All of this information is publicly available and was thorough enough to support our awarding of those funds.

    "We also want to emphasize that if a member of the public, a family member, survivor, or public official has questions about our finances, they are welcome to contact us. To date no member of the public has contacted our leadership about this issue."

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