For the past 18 months veteran fundraiser Don Franchino has led efforts to bring in monies necessary to rebuild the facilities at Hi Tor Animal Care Center in Pomona. This effort will be no more after Franchino resigned in disgust because Hi Tor board president Lizanne Fiorentino asked the District Attorney’s Office to investigate why Franchino had placed new money in a bank account not under the board’s control.
Franchino opened a separate bank account, he said, because the Hi Tor Board of Trustees had proven unreliable in stewarding the Rebuild funds raised by his team of volunteers and, in fact, refused to account for how the money would be used.
Rebuild volunteers are now considering raising money to create an entirely new shelter and leaving Hi Tor behind altogether.
Franchino, who runs an All State insurance agency in New City during his regular hours, explained his decision in a letter to Hi Tor supporters.
Don Franchino’s email to Rebuild Hi Tor supporters:
My decision to terminate my relationship with this president and board came as a result of a phone call from the District Attorney’s Office. In my 40 years of fundraising for different causes neither I or my volunteers have ever been accused of fraud or thievery. This president and board allowed these attacks to continue on their Facebook and social media. I decided to end it with my resignation. The volunteers were concerned they could be sued.
Since January of this year I have been requesting accountability of the funds deposited in Provident Bank then TD Bank. No response. I did receive a registered letter from the treasurer of Hi Tor requesting a spreadsheet on donations for 2013. I sent the requested info and in turn requested an updated balance of the funds deposited. No response.
I requested an update on funds raised for a third time — no response. At that point I filed for a separate tax ID number for Rebuild Hi Tor Animal Shelter LLC (April 2014). I also open a separate account with TD Bank. I instructed the volunteers to begin making deposits into this account. I requested the funds raised to date be transferred to this account to protect this money from an anticipated lawsuit from the ex-director. I offered to sign a legal document indicating the funds were only to be used for rebuilding the shelter–no response.
Instead the board transferred the funds to the Rockland Community Foundation with no notice to rebuild. My group had no idea how to make deposits to the foundation because no information was provided. I advised the group we will continue as a separate entity. Since that point I have had to deal with the Office of Attorney General State of New York, the New York State Charities Board and now the Rockland County District Attorney’s Office. At this point Rebuild has been exonerated.
Building a new shelter remains the goal. If we use the Hi Tor name or another name has to be determined. Please don’t doubt a new shelter is in the future, I just cannot work with the current leadership of Hi Tor.
In an earlier email Franchino broke the situation down thus:
I formed a separate account and Tax ID number for several reasons.
1. Since January there has been no accountability for the funds we raised whether deposited or via the pay pal account.
2. The board requested a spreadsheet of donations, this I provided. I again asked for accountability of the funds we raised. No response.
3. The public needs to know that any money donated is for rebuilding the shelter exclusively. I offered to sign a legal document stating this–no response.
4. The people in Rebuild have been called thieves via the social network with no comment from the president or board. There was a half-ass thank from Lizanne on Facebook to the Rebuild volunteers. That went nowhere, she should have made a statement at the library meeting thanking the volunteers in person for their efforts.
5. I met with DA today and it has been determined Rebuild has done nothing illegal.
I still want the accountability of the funds deposited and raised since January.
Although we have been together for two and half years, today I received a phone call today from the Rockland County DA,s office. This was preceded by inquires from the New York State Attorney Generals office.