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Legal troubles for local charity
Network Services of Puget Sound, an Eastside charity run by a Fall City woman, is being taken to court by the Washington Attorney General amid allegations that the charity put out bad information to potential donors.
The Attorney General’s Office filed papers Wednesday, Dec. 3 in King County Superior Court, accusing Network Services and its president and executive director, Salli DeBoer of Fall City, of violating Washington’s Charitable Solicitations Act and Consumer Protection Act.
While the case is not criminal in nature, Assistant Attorney General Shannon Smith said the organization has made misrepresentations and been sluggish in meeting legal obligations.
According to its materials, Network Services, also known as Network Ministry, helps families and children who are in crisis and become homeless, helping to provide food, clothes, furniture, housing, cars, jobs and mentoring. A flyer provided to the Valley Record states that the ministry has operated since January of 2004.
In Washington, charities that seek donations must register with the Secretary of State’s office. Smith alleged that Network Services started soliciting for donations sometime around the first of 2004, but did not get registered until 2007. The organization was due to renew its registration on Nov. 30, but was late.
Smith alleged that Network Services also claimed to have tax-exempt status before filing for it with the IRS.
Smith’s office also claims that Network Services has misrepresented how long it has been in operation, and that it made claims to use 100 percent of donations for charity work.
“Some of the money has been used for administration and other expenses,” Smith said.
While it is legal for charities to use funds for those costs, the organizations need to be up front about whether all the money is used for charity or not, she added.
“In material that the organization produced, it has claimed to be assisting families since 1990,” Smith said, “when in fact it wasn’t founded until 2003.”
“We think it makes a difference to people who are contributing money, whether this is a brand-new or a longstanding organization,” she added.
Smith said that Network Services also failed to include required information in materials, such as the Secretary of State’s Office toll free number, and a declaration that donors may call the office and get more information about the charity.
Current materials contain the Secretary of State’s phone number.
No date has been set for a court hearing,. Smith said the attorney general’s office could seek to have the charity be prohibited from operating without being fully registered, and be required to follow the Consumer Protection Act and charitable giving laws. The office may also seek to recover costs and fees.
DeBoer met with the Valley Record last week. However, she declined to comment on the record for this story.
Bob Weyrick, president of Network Tacoma, the parent organization of Network Services of Puget Sound’s program, said he would give glowing reviews for DeBoer’s work.
Network Tacoma was founded in 1990. That date could be considered the basis for statements that Network Services has helped families since that time.
Weyrick said that some of the statements in Network Services’ Web site and materials could be considered confusing, but not fraudulent.
Network Services in currently wrapping up its “Be An Angel in Your Own Community” fundraiser, selling cookies for donations in the Valley. Cards attached to each cookie state that the donations are used to help a homeless family with children.
Network Services can be contacted at (425) 466-4696. The organization’s Web site is www.networkservices.wa.org.