Aurora theater shooting victims, families request investigation

4:26 PM, Oct 9, 2012   |    comments
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They want the Attorney General and the Secretary of State to investigate the charities Giving First and Community First Foundation. They claim the organizations violated the Colorado Solicitations Act.

The relevant part of the Colorado Charitable Solicitations Act reads: "fraudulent charitable solicitations are a widespread practice in this state that results in millions of dollars of losses to contributors and legitimate charities each year ... The general assembly further finds that legitimate charities provide many public benefits and that charitable donations are a direct result in public trust in charities."

The Colorado-based charitable organizations used the names and images of the victims to raise public funds without permission or authorization from the victims or their family members.

The theater shooting families believe Giving First and Community First Foundation use the likeness of the 12 victims, collected donations and did not disburse the funds in a responsible way.

The following is the statement from Community First Foundation:

Community First Foundation is honored to serve our community and the victims of the Aurora theatre shooting by faithfully processing money donated to the Aurora Victim Relief Fund. All money collected, either online or via check/money order, is and will continue to go directly into the Aurora Victim Relief Fund.

Community First Foundation realizes that every donation is a gift. We are obligated to honor the intentions of our donors by delivering each gift to the recipient identified by the donor. When we cannot meet the donor's expectation, we return the money to the donor.

Of the $5.4 million raised by the Aurora Victim Relief Fund, $100,000 was distributed in the form of matching grants to COVA, Aurora Mental Health and eight other nonprofits working with victims. The donors who contributed this $100,000 asked us to use their donations in this way to encourage others to give. An additional $405,000 has been distributed from the Aurora Victim Relief Fund to the victims in the form of cash assistance. The remaining funds will be distributed by Special Master Kenneth Feinberg.

Feinberg is an expert specializing in compensation disbursement. He has been retained by White House administrations to run the 9/11 fund and BP Oil Spill settlement. He handled the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund at Virginia Tech University and was recently hired by Penn State University to settle personal injury claims related to former Coach Jerry Sandusky.

Community First Foundation realizes our transparency maintains faith - not only in the giving process - but also among the organizations and individuals who are the recipients of that generosity. To that end, the board of directors of the Community First Foundation is engaging an independent auditor to conduct an audit of the Aurora Victim Relief Fund. This development has previously been announced to our donors, to the news media and to the victims. This audit will cover all transactions and will commence upon the distribution of the fund.

Community First Foundation is honored to participate in this endeavor to help our community heal from the painful events of July 20th. We look forward to cooperating with the Fund distribution process.

For additional information regarding this matter, please refer to the following statement from the Governor's Office:

"Community First Foundation, like so many other organizations and individuals, stepped up at a time when our community was in crisis. Community First Foundation agreed to handle the Aurora Victim Relief Fund without taking any fees or reimbursement for their costs. We have complete confidence in the integrity of the organization and how it has handled the fund. Many victims and their families have already benefited from the foundation's efforts and even more will benefit in the coming weeks."

The 7/20 Recovery Committee released the following statement back in early September when concerns first arose with the victims and families:

We appreciate that this is a difficult situation and we know from other past tragic events that creating a distribution plan requires a thoughtful and inclusive process. It was determined early on that victims will play a significant role on the 7/20 Recovery Committee. We are waiting to hear from victims this week and next week about who wants to be involved, beyond those that have already spoken out.

The 7/20 Recovery Committee remains committed to a robust and inclusive process that honors the input of all victims, and not just the voices of a few. In fact, we have been and continue to actively seek input from all of the victims injured and who lost family in this tragic event. We've had three meetings in nine days with the victims and their families. Additionally, we are meeting one-on-one with victims who have not yet had the chance to share their feelings. And, based on feedback from those affected, we've distributed a survey to the injured victims and families of the deceased. It is our responsibility to listen to all voices, and we are hearing a very wide variety of opinions on the work ahead.

The real work in developing the distribution plan will occur when the victims are seated at the table as part of the committee. The 7/20 Recovery Committee is committed to supporting Community First Foundation in its role as administrator of the Aurora Victim Relief Fund. The Aurora Victim Relief Fund, however, is only one of many resources available to victims and their families-the committee's recommendations are made in coordination with other community resources.

Every family of the deceased and injured has a Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance (COVA) advocate assigned to them. COVA has established active ongoing contact with the majority of these victims and are assessing the short-term and intermediate needs. We ask that those who have yet to talk with their advocate contact COVA at 303-861-1160.

Twelve people were killed and 58 were wounded in the July 20 shootings.

(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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