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Menino discloses donors to Boston-run charity

March 25, 2012
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BOSTON—Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino has released a list of donors and an accounting of recent expenses of a city-run charity that has accepted money from corporations, developers, law firms and others with city business.

The Boston Globe reports ( http://bo.st/H1iCFK) that Menino also has promised to establish a website that shows where money is coming from and how it's spent.

In some years the charity collects more than $1 million. Unlike political contributors, donors to the Fund for Boston Neighborhoods often have remained confidential, shielded by the anonymity of federal tax law.

The fund was established by Kevin H. White while he was mayor. Government watchdogs call for transparency and disclosure of donors.

Money has paid for victory parades for championship sports teams, turkeys at Thanksgiving and to bury young victims of violence.

"This is an area that cries out for full transparency," said Pamela Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts, a government watchdog. "All donors should be disclosed. This is an entity that is controlled by the city, and by having secret donors, there is a potential for using a contribution as a way of gaining access and influence."

Another change is that the fund will no longer collect payments for events and promotions on City Hall Plaza and other public property, said Dot Joyce, Menino's spokeswoman. And fees will be paid to the city's general fund, which is overseen by the City Council.

In addition, for the first time, city officials plan to establish defined rates for using City Hall Plaza. Fees previously were negotiated on an individual basis and varied from event to event.

Menino said the charity makes it possible to finance neighborhood events and said donations do not influence decisions made by his administration.

The Fund for Boston Neighborhoods was founded in 1968 to raise money for summertime concerts and makes it easier to stage events such as last year's parade for the Boston Bruins on short notice, the mayor said.

Over the years, however, the fund's mission has expanded to pay for programming at the city-owned Strand Theatre in Dorchester and much of the budget at the Parkman House, a mansion used by the mayor for meetings and official entertaining.

Most of the money comes from tax-deductible contributions, many of which are restricted by donors for specific purposes. The fund has other sources of revenue, including ticket sales and registration fees at city-sponsored events.

From July 2010 through June 2011, the charity recorded $1.6 million in revenue, with more than $940,000 from charitable contributions.

The charity also paid expenses such as $778 worth of gifts for departing city employees.

In 2011, the fund received $1.2 million in contributions, including $445,000 from 14 companies that sponsored the Bruins' Stanley Cup victory parade.

Menino's administration rejects suggestions that donations to the mayor's charity could influence the awarding of city contracts or approval of development projects. The city's chief lawyer, William F. Sinnott, said Massachusetts has some of the strictest procurement and bidding laws in the United States.

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Information from: The Boston Globe, http://www.boston.com/globe

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