S.C. agency seeks to stop Berkeley shelter from collecting donations
Faith, a calico kitty, doesn’t know what’s going on.
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To verify the registration status of a group soliciting charitable contributions or to review a charity’s financial disclosures, go to the Secretary of State’s website at www.sos.sc.gov and click on “Charity Search” or contact the Division of Public Charities at 1-888-CHARITI (1-888-242-7484).
To her and the other animals at the Doc Williams SPCA in Berkeley County, it’s business as usual as they wait for a loving family to come along and adopt them.
But for Marcia Atkinson, executive director of the nonprofit shelter, things are a little more stressful.
State Secretary of State Mark Hammond filed a petition last week against the agency in the S.C. Administrative Law Court, alleging that it is operating in violation of the South Carolina Solicitation of Charitable Funds Act, which allows groups to collect donations that are tax-deductible to the giver. It will be up to a judge to decide.
“We are doing our best to clear this up as quickly as possible,” said Atkinson.
According to the petition, the agency was fined $8,000 in 2011 for failure to maintain its registration with the Secretary of State’s Division of Public Charities and for failure to file annual financial reports dating back to 2007.
Doc Williams agreed to comply with the act and file reports but still has not done so for fiscal years 2009, 2010, and 2011, according to the petition. A 2008 tax form was filed in March.
“Our accountants are doing everything they can to get all the paperwork filed,” Atkinson said.
After several warnings that it was in violation, Doc Williams was suspended from soliciting funds April 13. The petition is a last resort effort to bring the shelter into compliance, according to the Secretary of State’s office.
“The Solicitation of Charitable Funds Act protects charitable donors by requiring charities to file annual financial reports with the Secretary of State’s Office,” Hammond said. “This transparency aids the public in knowing how its charitable dollars are used. When a charity fails to file financial reports for three consecutive years, this office has no choice but to seek an injunction to require its compliance with the law.”
The petition filed Aug. 27 seeks to stop the organization from soliciting charitable contributions until all delinquent financial reports are filed and until the organization is properly registered with the Secretary of State. The petition also seeks the payment of all outstanding fines, which presently exceed $4,500.
Atkinson said last week the paperwork fell through the cracks because the shelter, which takes in about 10,000 animals every year, relies heavily on volunteers. She said the majority of the budget comes from adoption fees and payment services, such as spaying and neutering and not from donations.
According to the 2008 return, the agency collected $24,252 in contributions and $233,750 in government grants, which came from sources, such as its contract with Berkeley County to house animals picked up by county Animal Control. It also collected $337,968 in service fees.
Expenses were $418,313 for “salaries, other compensation, employee benefits,” which included $21,743 for compensation of officers and key employees, $6,965 for benefits, $39,147 for payroll taxes, and $350,458 for “other salaries and wages,” among some other employee-related expenses.
The shelter also had $288,055 in other expenses, leaving it with a loss of $122,907 for the year.
As the agency works to clear up its paperwork, anyone trying to visit its website, docwilliamsspca.org, will find a message that the site is offline. Atkinson said that is to keep people from trying to donate through the site. Additionally, callers are asked to leave a message on voice mail.
Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or www.facebook.com/brindge.