We hope that the cops who work for the Tennessee state Fraternal Order of Police respond to 911 calls much more quickly than they respond to our requests for interviews.
Recently, we reported that the FOP has hired a shady out-of-state telemarketing firm to solicit Tennesseans—especially Spanish speakers—for cash donations. The company, Civic Development Group of Edison, N.J., has a history of running afoul of state attorneys general and has been sanctioned by the Federal Trade Commission for tricking consumers into parting with their cash.
To boot, the FOP was guaranteed only 15 percent of each dollar donated to it by Tennesseans through the company.
In preparing that story we left many, many messages at FOP headquarters in Knoxville, particularly for Mike Embrey, the secretary of the FOP whose signature graces mailers that arrive in Tennessee mailboxes asking for money. Not one call was returned. Even the nice lady at the desk said, “I just don’t know why he isn’t calling you back, I’m giving him the messages.”
In the meantime, our reporting has continued and we’ve uncovered some startling new information about how much help the Tennessee FOP provides to its dues-paying members—that is, the cops who serve our communities. According to an FOP audit obtained from the Tennessee state Office of Charitable Solicitations—which regulates charities and fund raisers that operate in the state—the Tennessee FOP raised more than $1 million last year, yet spent only a small fraction of that on providing services to its law enforcement membership. In fact, the bulk of the money raised by Civic Development Group for the FOP was spent on—drum roll please—more fund-raising!
For the year between May 2005 and May 2006—the most recent period for which numbers are available—Civic Development Group raised $1,225,329 by asking Tennesseans for cash donations on behalf of the FOP. A pretty nice chunk of change, to be sure. But a look at the other side of the ledger reveals an even more eye-popping number. Under “Expenses,” it shows that $1,034,636 was paid to CDG for fund raising.
The bottom line? The FOP kept just over 15 percent of the contributions that generous Tennesseans made to support law enforcement in the state.
Of course, $190,693 is still a lot of money to help the families of those hurt or killed while in the line of duty, as the FOP promises to do. Unfortunately for police in Tennessee, more than 9,500 of whom are dues-paying members of the FOP, very little of this money actually goes to the services that the FOP promises members and prospective givers.
While the FOP trumpets its death benefits program for fallen officers on its website, on mailers and in phone calls from CDG solicitors, only six percent—that’s $84,000—of its expenditures from 2006 is dedicated to “death benefits,” according to the internal FOP audit. Presumably that money is paid to the families of Tennessee cops killed in the line of duty.
Another of the FOP’s big selling points to prospective donors and members is its offer of steadfast legal representation to cops who have gotten themselves into hot water while on duty. Unfortunately for lawbreaking flatfoots, the FOP only spent $30,365 total in “Legal Research/Legal Aid” for its members last year. That’s a mere two and a half percent of what generous Tennesseans thought they were giving to hard working cops and only two and a quarter percent of the total FOP expenditures for last year.
The lobbying efforts that the FOP touts also get short shrift when compared to the donations raised on its behalf. For the organization’s 2005-2006 fiscal year, $18,000 was spent on lobbying, according to the internal audit. While that might be enough to buy lunch at The Palm for a few dozen State Senators, it’s less than one and a half cents of every dollar donated to the FOP last year.
Anyway, that $18,000 is a king’s ransom when compared to the measly $140 that was paid to the Tennessee FOP’s “Benevolent Fund” last year.
A quick look at the numbers shows that the TNFOP spent nearly as much on office expenses and salaries for its president and his executive assistant as it did on death benefits for the families of Tennessee police killed in the line of duty. Probably not what most folks have in mind when they write a check to the FOP. Carl Jenkins, the Tennessee FOP president, received more than $26,345 in salary and expenses last year. His executive assistant was paid more than $20,819. And office expenses for the Tennessee FOP were $32,260.
Another source of revenue for the FOP is the interest and appreciation from over $377,000 in interest-bearing accounts and investments. When these accounts are combined with the $228,805 in mutual funds held by the Tennessee FOP, it becomes clear that this charity—which has spent only $148,441 on member services in its last fiscal year—is sitting on over half-a-million dollars in liquid assets.
Of course, this is not counting fixed assets such as office equipment ($61,198), cars ($59,226) and “Furniture & Fixtures” ($14,052). And then there is the $190,693 that Civic Development Group let the charity keep after using its name to earn more than $1 million for itself.
In short, it seems that the Tennessee state Fraternal Order of Police is sitting on a pile of cash and has used a less than reputable company to acquire more. As we reported, the Civic Development Group has been the subject of more than 20 state investigations, according to newspaper reports. A number of these investigations led to lawsuits. Though the company never admitted wrongdoing, over $700,000 dollars in settlement cash was paid to various plaintiffs as of 2005.
Perhaps the most aggressive example of Civic Development Group’s telemarketing tenacity was the time in 2004 when a company employee threatened to send a SWAT team to a Utah woman’s house if she didn’t make a donation to her state’s FOP, according to a Salt Lake City TV news report.
“If I get the answering machine one more time,” the Civic Development Group’s telemarketer told the woman’s answering machine, “I’m going to send an officer to your doorstep.”
When the woman still did not pick up the phone, the telemarketer pulled a Dirty Harry.
“It’s over,” he said. “There will be a SWAT team on your doorstep in about five minutes.”All of this makes it hard to imagine why the FOP in Tennessee would choose to hire this company, especially when the charity isn’t spending all that much helping out Tennessee police officers. Perhaps it would be easier to understand if the FOP would just call and explain it to us. We’ll keep waiting.
Bill, I agree. But you're messing with Betsy's MO.
That's cute, gast, and something he might have said.
[I didn't realize Betsy was a paid staffer at the Tennessean.]
Honestly though, isn't…
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xray/zoombah/gasttheinert/vladthetotallypassedby: I think you missed the entire point of David's post!
As far as…