Thursday, July 17, 2008

What Friends Should Know about NYYM Finances before Silver Bay 2008

Comparison of 3 Yearly Meeting Finances 2008

Dear Friend,

I just read the Treasurer’s Report, the Audit Committee Report, and the Financial Services Report in the Advance Reports for this year’s Silver Bay Annual Sessions. These three committees are none too sexy, yet they are the power centers which determine whether New York Yearly Meeting (NYYM) practices good governance.

Some observations:
  1. The Treasurer’s report for 2007 compared with the Operating Budget for 2007 is a sham. This sham is nothing new, yet it continues because a dying organization needs deception, especially around money, to keep itself in business, and maintain the facade of legitimacy. 
  2. The newly reconstituted Financial Services Committee will be preparing the 2009 budget at the Annual Sessions at Silver Bay in July 2008. Will you be there? The sham continues with the names changed, but the fact is that the NYYM Treasurer and Clerk of General Services have been and still are clearly in power and in collusion to misrepresent both the Operating Budget and the Treasurer’s report. (The new NYYM Treasurer and the Clerk of General Services [a former NYYM Treasurer and current Treasurer of the NYYM Trustees] are members of the same Monthly Meeting)
    1. The NYYM budget numbers have been manipulated / padded for at least 20 years such that even when Meetings did not give what was asked, the Yearly Meeting still made a profit to add to its bank balance and carry forward.
    2. NYYM has been in substantial budget deficit for 3 out of the last 4 years and its total cash on hand from operations has only fallen by $1,000. The beginning balance on 1/1/2004, the year the General Secretary was hired was $204,000. The ending balance of cash on hand in 2007 was $203,000
    3. Money is being spent ‘cross’ budget lines, not accountable to the populous.
  3. The rank and file members of the Financial Services Committee, a committee with no authority to reduce expenses when they have not been presented with due evidence for such funding requests, are literal nothings in decision making. Finance meetings are held as far away as possible from the most Friends, in with purposeful intent to limit participation by committee members and regional Treasurers.
  4. The Clerk of the Financial Services Committee usually has to be the third leg of the stool of malfeasance, part and parcel to the sham carried on by the other two power brokers named above. The former Clerk of Financial Services conveniently left town, was originally a dedicated NYYM team player. He was a made man who asked me to resign multiple times when I made what were objectively helpful observations about the insular nature of NYYM and what could be done to cure it. Nothing that was new about the insularity, but the what to do about it, was simply heresy to those who feel that the yearly meeting should exist without any mandate or covenant, bottom-up, financing from Monthly Meetings, which New York Quarterly Meeting Friends and I began in September 2004. (A covenant contribution is something that a Monthly Meeting agrees in advance to contribute to the Yearly Meeting as simply one of the Monthly Meeting’s expenses, as part of grass roots authority to the Yearly Meeting wider body.) The struggle with me and with the groundswell that began in September 2004, began to turn the former Clerk of Financial Services toward the right order of Quaker authority and mandate, from bottom up, which will eventually heal the malfeasance of governance that still exists. So I say, convenient for him to be off the hook as he has moved to be closer to family.
    1. The Clerk of Financial Services is a member of the same Monthly Meeting as the Clerk of the Nurture Coordinating Committee. The latter is a rah-rah NYYM devotee who refuses to see malfeasance of NYYM that cuts her own Nurture budget in most of the recent years to support office salaries, office expenses and other centralized costs.
  5. The current new Clerk of Financial Services has yet to be proven as a made-man. We’ll see if he has the ‘cojones’ to stand up to the other two thirds of the power triumvirate. He’ll also contend with the General Secretary who is ‘thankful’ for his $80,000 and going up salary and undefined job description according to the first sentence of the General Secretary's Report in the Advance Reports. Will the new Clerk of Financial Services be an agent for positive change, or will he be able to suppress any further dissent which is trying to bring NYYM back to good governance?
  6. The Audit Committee says it hires a CPA for $3,000 per year budgeted ($3,075 actual in 2007). What CPA will audit thoroughly for that low amount? Ask to have a copy of the Audit Report filed by the Auditor. Not to see a copy, to have a copy. The Clerk of the Audit Committee, also in the manner of NYYM, Clerk equals Captain mentality, is too much a same-old same old, a paid professional Quaker with the mentality of continuing institutions as ends in themselves, and should not be nominated again for any central power position. It’s amazing what churches can hide because they don’t have to file public statements with the IRS and hence be truly accountable to the public let alone the Church’s own members. While you’re at it, ask to have a copy of the Financial Management Guidelines which will surely expose the scam $30,000 per year Bookkeeping service hired by a former Treasurer, now the Clerk of General Services Committee. If NYYM has less than 50 transactions per month, why shouldn’t it hire a $5,000 per year bookkeeper? Where is the other $25,000?

My advice to any Friends who read this: Go to the Financial Services Meeting(s) at Silver Bay. Take time out from sailing, windsurfing, swimming, shuffleboarding, chasing fireflies or whatever and go sweat a little bit with those who are trying to help NYYM achieve vitality. Does the Financial Services Committee offer teleconferencing into the Finance Meetings at Silver Bay? Why not? Silver Bay a conference center isn’t it?

Ask the hard questions that have to be asked in order for NYYM to come clean and achieve accountability and truth in what it really is.

Here is the forensic evidence of the continuing sham of Operating Budget and Treasurer’s Report:

Expense
General Services Section – The Non-Sexy, but Powerful and Critical to Good Governance Section
  1. Audit – already mentioned. It’s a joke.
  2. Junior Yearly Meeting – could the Silver Bay portion of this actual cost of be funny money or money that does not get spent, just applied as an expense if Silver Bay Association ‘gives’ NYYM rooms? NYYM is Silver Bay’s biggest customer, there is some kind of bartering going on, rest assured, where money is not changing hands where it should.
    1. Could money be changing hands toward NYYM members, possibly illegally, on the Sessions Committee for keeping the conference at this facility, so far away, and so un-competitively priced compared with other Yearly Meeting annual sessions?
    2. Has anyone determined which (powerful) NYYM Friends own property or houses near Silver Bay?
  1. Administrative Expenses – what are these $13,847, almost $2,000 over budget, broken down into? This is a very vague category which should be specified out in future budgets and reports.
    1. Did any committee have to approve this over budget spending or was this done behind the scenes?
  2. Rent and Utilities at 15th St. $23,800 Budget 2007, $23,800 Actual 2007. When I was on the Finance Committee I obtained a document from the office landlord, New York Quarterly Meeting, which stated in June of 2005, that the office rent for NYYM would not change in 2006 from the 2005 rent of $25,800, however electric charges would be metered and paid directly by NYYM to the utility in 2006. The rent number on the line in 2005 was misrepresented as $23,800 and inconsequential Friends objected that the wrong number was on the budget line. But the budget line stayed the same because of the power triumvirate, and General Secretary, named above who simply authorized the wrong number to stay on the budget and hence the Treasurer's Report. Is NYYM saying that rent has not gone up since 2005 (even when the rent was misrepresented low purposely in 2005 to deflect concern over paying so much money for rent when much cheaper and more central space is surely to be had?) The General Secretary, salary is around $80,000, although hired to live in NYC and did not, does not attend the office much. He is not called a Field Secretary, which would normally work out of his home like he does, and is not paid like one ($45,000) Why can’t the office be moved closer to this Rock Star where he can be in the office to supervise those under him who, like him, are accountable to no time and task specific job descriptions?
    1. A round and even actual number for rent plus utilities is highly suspect here and is most probably purposely misrepresented.
    2. Considering the utilities component of this actual cost which is obviously being paid from some other budget line, an actual number that equals the budget number to the dollar and cent in the Treasurer's Report is also even more suspect in being inaccurate at best and purposely misrepresented at worst.
      1. These two coincidences together represent an absurdity to any reasonable person.
  1. Salary and Wage Related ExpensesBudget $43,000. Actual $36,299. That Budget has stayed flat for at least 3 years (2005 Budget was $42,275) when salaries have risen by 3-5% per year indicates a blatant misrepresentation of budget expectations.
    1. An employer is required to pay an additional 1/2 of the Social Security payment, or 7.5% of an employee’s salary to Social Security. So if salaries for the 3 full-time employees rise, as they have over the last 3 years, so do the employers Wage Related Expenses.
    2. Hourly employee wages have stayed more or less flat since 2005
    3. Add to this that the actual numbers in the Treasurer’s report have also stayed flat when they should have grown (2005 Actual was $36,457) and we have a likely pattern of deception, in rerouting other budget lines to pay what should look like wage related expenses without showing the truth.
    4. Rationale was used in 2005 to say that two of the three employees are not taking their full time health insurance benefits and if new employees were to be hired the money to pay the new people is needed in the budget. This phantom budget bubble money was supposedly taken out of the budget to help alleviate previous budget deficits, again out of view of the inconsequential people, years ago. So don't buy it when they feed the same song and dance to you again this year.
  2. Office Staff Travel – was the actual vs. budget 15% overage approved by the Financial Services Committee at some point?
  3. Office Equipment – again an even number $1,800 budget and $1,800 actual that is equal to the dollar and cents to the budgeted number for office equipment? Guess again.
  4. Computer Consultation – Budget $1,000. Actual $0 How many years has this actual been zero? Who has been paid as a computer consultant and what did they do? Get rid of this bogus budget line.
  5. Hourly Staff – what do these people do? Who are these people? Need Job descriptions, accountability.$21,000 Budget. $21,315 Actual.
  6. Volunteer Support – $500 Budget. $264 Actual. What can NYYM Friends do to volunteer? What kind of work is needed and when? Who is chosen for this work and what is this money spent on? Do these volunteers get special favors in any other way?
  7. Bookkeeping Service – $28,200 Budget. $28,200 Actual. is there a conflict of interest here where an important NYYM person is familiar with a principal of the bookkeeping service, where budgeted number equals the actual number spent? Does the ‘independent’ vendor raise prices and the Yearly Meeting simply concede, or do the owner of the ‘independent’ bookkeeping service collude with someone at NYYM to make the actual cost equal the budget number? Are there not any busier periods when the costs of bookkeeping would go up or down as per the amount of work? Isn’t this cost astronomically high which could also suggest potentially illegal kickbacks or other importune activity?
    1. Who are the principals of this firm?
    2. What is the name of the firm?
    3. Do the principals of this obviously overpaid firm have any personal or family relationships with important NYYM Friends?
Nurture Section
  1. Advancement Committee - $7,000 Budget. $7,000 Actual. Again, any kind of reimbursement for Silver Bay is done in uneven numbers based on what Monthly Meetings give. Reimbursements for travel for the ‘approved ministers’ to travel to Monthly Meetings would be in odd numbers.
    1. For the actual in dollars and cents to be a round number is odd
    2. money is to be spent from the trust fund associated with this budget line before the operating funds are spent
    3. for both a + b to be true is an inaccurate reportage
      1. That other actual numbers which normally should be odd, but are even round numbers, indicates a pattern of deception.
  1. Low numbers for FWCC, FUM and FGC Budget and Actual indicate that the Yearly Meeting is out of control and does not fund its ‘wider bodies’ sufficiently to support good Quaker governance at wider levels.
    1. Wouldn’t the current ‘gay crisis’ of FUM have been staved off if NYYM would have represented itself better in the past with concomitant funding and representation to the levels of at least NEYM or BaltYM?
    2. These low amounts are a joke and allow NYYM to retain money which is inherently money given by Monthly Meetings to wider bodies, that should be passed on to such. But the money is diverted instead to fund NYYM’s unaccountable internal operations.
    3. There is no committee to set these donation amounts, there are only those power players in the behind the scenes closed door negotiations which set these numbers.
      1. One Friend, a member of one of these three ‘wider bodies’ told me once, “We are not a governing body (of Yearly Meetings), per se. We just hold meetings to allow Friends to get together and discuss what’s on their minds. If we relied on money from Yearly Meetings for all of our funding, we’d be out of business.”
      2. Eric Hoffer once said, “Every good cause starts as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.”
      3. Can NYYM stop itself from becoming in business (possibly even a racket) to provide a nice church vacation for the elect, the elite few who have broken into the pantheon of ‘higher’ Friends?
  1. Powell House - $67,020 Budget. $67.018.33 Actual This is a strange twist in that a donation to Powell House budgeted number should be a round number. What is the $20 in the budget added to $67,000? What is the odd number as the actual, when a large round number given to Powell House is what the Meeting should have mandated?
    1. Something is amiss here and should be investigated.
    2. Powell House should receive less funding each year until it’s subsidy is zero.
Income
  1. Registration Fees fell short of budget by 25%. Could this money have been stolen or misappropriated? Again, there are not many or any objective people in the position to see details of what is going on in the NYYM office.
  2. Meeting Receipts: All Friends and Purchase Quarters are paying way under what they should pay according indices tied to median incomes in their zip codes (these zip codes have much higher median incomes and home prices than New York City, for example)
    1. Many powerful or ‘made’ NYYM Friends come from these two regions.
    2. The Clerk of General Services and the NYYM Treasurer come from All Friends, as well as the same Monthly Meeting

What more can be said? Does the inurement of vacation dull your intellect and reason, and the understanding of right and wrong?

In Friendship,