N.Y. Vets Modify Disaster Relief Fund

February 16, 2005

New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer announced an agreement with a Rensselaer County veterans organization to provide more disaster relief funds to families that were burned out of their homes in Troy in January 2004.

The agreement follows talks between the Attorney General’s office – which regulates charities – and the Veterans of Lansingburgh, which established an emergency relief fund last year to help 10 families that were made homeless by separate fires on Jan. 9 and 12, 2004.

From late January through May of 2004, the veterans group raised more than $41,000 through a variety of fund-raisers.

In some of its fund-raising appeals, the organization said the money would go directly to victims of the fires. However, only 12 percent of the money or $5,290 went to the 10 families. The rest of the money went into a fund to provide relief aid to other disaster victims.

Spitzer’s office, while strongly commending the veterans for their civic efforts, noted that state law requires that charities follow through on specific claims made in fund-raising appeals. In this regard, many people in Troy contributed because they thought the money would go directly to the fire victims.

The Attorney General’s office met with the veterans and explained the provisions of charities laws that require non-profit organizations to honor the “donor’s intent.” The leaders of the group then agreed to distribute an additional $16,780 to the victims of the January fires. The remaining funds will be available to aid the victims of other disasters.

Spitzer stressed that it was apparent that the veterans did not intend to misapply any funds raised. Indeed, some of the veterans’ solicitations did refer to a fund for future disaster victims.

The problem was that they needed to be more specific in their fund- raising appeals, which should have noted that money raised would benefit both current and future victims of disaster.

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