Where’s the transparency? Nonprofit just won’t say

What kind of Las Vegas-based national nonprofit won’t allow its return for the 2013 tax year to be examined, in violation of the Internal Revenue Service requirements?

What kind of nonprofit won’t disclose to the Las Vegas Review-Journal the name of its new board of directors?

What kind of nonprofit uses a mail drop and fails to put its physical location on its website?

What kind of nonprofit’s founder and president won’t answer questions, even to clear up possible misconceptions?

Let’s answer the last question first: Ann McGee, president of Miracle Flights for Kids, a Las Vegas-based national tax-exempt nonprofit, won’t answer my questions.

Repeated efforts since Feb. 12 to interview McGee have been unsuccessful. She refused to answer four emailed questions. Maybe if the IRS asks, she will be more forthcoming.

Finally, she sent an email asking her statement be printed.

“Miracle Flights for Kids stringently complies with all IRS 501©(3) regulations. And, in our 30 year history, we have never violated any of those regulations. Contrary to your personal belief, our focus remains on helping children throughout the country as evidenced by the over 93,000 free flights that we have completed for tragically ill children. Our Board of Directors’ and our thousands of nationwide supporters are proud of our accomplishments and we are looking forward to the next 30 years of helping children with serious cancers and other debilitating diseases. To learn what people experience with Miracle Flights for Kids, please go to http://greatnonprofits.org/reviews/miracle-flights-for-kids.”

Charity Watch once gave Miracle Flights an F rating, so not all believe it’s a great nonprofit.

The Miracle Flights website says its most recent tax forms are on the website.

Not true.

It’s the 2012 form, not the most recent. The IRS website showed the most recent was filed in December 2014 and covers 2013. Why McGee refused to provide 2013’s form is incomprehensible. I can get it from the IRS, eventually.

The 990 forms say in bold print “Open to Public Inspection.”

I went to inspect about 11 a.m. Monday, but Miracle Flights operates behind locked doors, and people must be buzzed in. No one buzzed me in. No one answered my calls. Or returned them.

Then there’s the unanswered question: Who are the new board members?

McGee, 68, refused to identify the new board of directors. Click on the website’s link for board of directors, and you will see no names have been listed for months.

Efforts to find out why the previous board left were unsuccessful. Las Vegas businessman and former Henderson councilman Larry Scheffler had been on the board more than 25 years. The other longtime board members included former Las Vegas City Councilman Michael McDonald and his friend Rick Henry and Jeana Yeager. McDonald said a confidentially agreement prevented him from commenting. Scheffler and Henry failed to return repeated calls. Yeager couldn’t be reached.

It wasn’t clear if McGee ousted the board or the board left on its own for some reason. Board members are now personally liable for fines from the IRS if they overcompensate charity employees.

McGee started Miracle Flights for Kids in 1985, and there is no doubt her nonprofit — which provides flights for sick children so they can obtain health care — provides an excellent service. Low-income children who couldn’t afford to travel elsewhere for treatment are provided flights at no cost to them. The nonprofit either pays for the flights or persuades the airlines to donate them.

McGee earns $250,500 and has another $22,500 in retirement and deferred compensation from Miracle Flights, for a total package of $273,000. Her husband, William, is paid $66,473 to work 50 hours a week.

The Review-Journal first raised questions about the operation’s finances in 2007 when the newspaper reported that less than one-third of the donations went to help sick children with flights and that fundraisers kept far more for themselves than what went to the charity. The pattern continues today. Two companies were paid more than $1 million to raise $232,841, according to the 2012 tax forms.

Then there’s this oddity. How to find the physical location of Miracle Flights for Kids.

On tax records and on the website, McGee lists 2764 N. Green Valley Parkway, Suite 115, as the nonprofit’s address. That’s a UPS mail drop. The IRS is OK with that.

The actual office is in one of two buildings purchased by MFFK Holdings Inc. in June 2013. Without the most recent tax records, I couldn’t confirm that those buildings and land are disclosed as owned by the nonprofit. In secretary of state records, McGee is listed as president, secretary and treasurer while Yeager is director.

The buildings at 5820 S. Eastern Ave. and 5740 S. Eastern Ave. also house commercial operations. Carrington College. AARP. PERS. While the Miracle Flights sign on both buildings is prominent, if you didn’t see the signs, this nonprofit is difficult to find, unless someone tells you where it is.

In September 2013, Miracle Flights reported on its blog that it will use an unexpected $40 million contribution to expand its operations internationally. Plus, it plans two other programs, one providing service animals for families, the other providing travel assistance for families attending medical camps and retreats.

The money came from a class action lawsuit filed against British Airways and Virgin Atlantic Airlines, which were sued in 2007 for fuel surcharges. The $40 million is the amount that went unclaimed, and the judge ordered it be donated to a worthy charity. Miracle Flights was chosen. The spokeswoman for the Seattle law firm that handled the case failed to return calls asking why Miracle Flights was selected.

McGee, 68, has a history of glowing press coverage and awards. CNN honored her as a CNN Hero finalist and gave her $10,000. Amazon includes Miracle Flights as a nonprofit customers can contribute to through certain purchases. The Engelstad Family Foundation has been a generous donor in prior years. So has Cox Communications.

In September, long after the $40 million donation, Project Dinner Table made Miracle Flights the beneficiary of its fundraising dinner. On March 12, Dick’s Last Resort is conducting a fundraiser for Miracle Flights and asked that people bring a cuddly toy and said 15 percent of the bar receipts will go to the nonprofit.

The nonprofit’s revenues in 2012 were $2.4 million, and they increased to $43 million. Suddenly they’re a big player.

Presumably, the nonprofit is receiving rent from the office buildings on Eastern Avenue. That should provide more income for the charity.

But one of the unanswered questions is this: Is MFFK Holdings part of the nonprofit? County records show the holding company bought the two parcels totaling nearly seven acres and the buildings for more than $10 million. That should show up as an asset on the most recent tax forms.

The 990 McGee won’t show me.

Nor would she answer an emailed question about MFFK Holdings and how it relates to Miracle Flights.

Also, I specifically asked her about line 17 on the tax return and Part 9 where year after year, large sums were named as “other” fees for services for nonemployees. Between 2009 and 2012, more than $2 million was described as “other” without any explanation on tax forms that allow plenty of chances to explain.

A retired IRS criminal investigator asked to review the 2012 tax return said that’s a lot of unidentified “other.”

The positive in all this is that in 2012, there were 5,965 flights provided for low-income sick children from all over the country to help them obtain medical care.

I will criticize how McGee operates with a total lack of transparency, but I can’t criticize her accomplishments.

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Thursdays. Email her at jmorrison@reviewjournal.com or leave a message at 702-383-0275. Find her on Twitter @janeannmorrison

ad-high_impact_4
News
Las Vegas police investigate suspicious package at shopping center
Las Vegas police evacuated a southeast valley shopping center at Flamingo and Sandhill roads early Tuesday morning while they investigated reports of a suspicious package. (Max Michor/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Las Vegas Metro hosts the K-9 Trials
The Las Vegas Metro K-9 Trials returns to the Orleans Arena to benefit the Friends For Las Vegas Police K-9 group.
Kingman residents love their little town
Residents of Kingman, Ariz. talk about how they ended up living in the Route 66 town, and what they love about their quiet community. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Service at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery
Twelve unclaimed veterans are honored at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Boulder City in Oct. 9, 2018. (Briana Erickson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas house prices reach highest level in 11 years
Las Vegas house prices are rising But so is the amount of available homes on the market Still, properties priced below $300,000 are selling fast And September was the first time since June 2007 that the median house price reached the $300,000 mark Las Vegas home prices have been rising at one of the fastest rates in the country over the past year Recent data show the market is now less affordable than the national average
National Night Out
About 100 Summerlin residents gathered at Park Centre Dr. in Summerlin on Tuesday for National Night Out. Lt. Joshua Bitsko with Las Vegas Metro, played with 3-year-old David who was dressed as a police officer. Face painting, fire truck tours and more kept kids busy as parents roamed behind them. (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Rural homeless issue comes to a head in Pahrump
On Sept. 12, Pahrump sheriff deputies told residents of a homeless encampment on private property that they had 15 minutes to vacate and grab their belongings. That decision might face some legal consequences. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Remembrance blood drive on October 1
A blood drive was held at the Las Vegas Convention Center on the one year anniversary of the Oct. 1 shooting. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Remembrance Lights memorial unveiled at St. Rose hospital
A dedication ceremony was held at St. Rose to unveil a memorial and to read the names of those who died on October 1, a year ago. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1October Blood Drive Remembrance Wall
(Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1October Blood Drive
Vitalent hosts a blood drive at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Monday, Oct. 1, 2018, the first anniversary of the Las Vegas shootings. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1October sunrise remembrance ceremony in Las Vegas
Myanda Smith, sister of Las Vegas shooting victim Neysa Tonks, speaks at the sunrise remembrance ceremony at the Clark County Government Center in downtown Las Vegas, Monday, Oct. 1, 2018. (Chitose Suzuki/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
‪Gov. Brian Sandoval speaks to crowd at Oct. 1 sunrise remembrance ceremony ‬
‪Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval speaks to the crowd at the Oct. 1 sunrise remembrance ceremony ‬at the Clark County Government Center in downtown Las Vegas, Monday, Oct. 1, 2018. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Father of Route 91 Harvest festival shooting victim talks about college scholarship in his daughter's memory
Chris Davis, father of a Route 91 Harvest festival shooting victim, Neysa Tonks, talks about a college scholarship in his daughter's memory to assist the children of those who died in the shooting. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Oct. 1 survivor Malinda Baldridge talks about life after the shooting
Malinda Baldridge of Reno attended the Route 91 Harvest festival with her daughter, Breanna, 17, and was shot twice in the leg when the gunman fired on the crowd.
Route 91 survivor talks about lack of progress in gun legislation
Heather Gooze, a Route 91 survivor, talks about lack of progress in gun legislation since the Oct 1. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas/Review-Journal) @reviewjournal
Review held in death of man after encounter with Las Vegas police
The mother of Tashii Brown, who died after an encounter with Las Vegas police on the Strip, not satisfied after public review of evidence. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Clark County Museum opening "How We Mourned: Selected Artifacts from the October 1 Memorials"
The Clark County Museum is opening an exhibit "How We Mourned: Selected Artifacts from the October 1 Memorials" of items left to honor the victims killed in the Route 91 Harvest festival shooting. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Memorial service for former RJ lawyer Mark Hinueber
Mark Hinueber, the Review-Journal's former lawyer and defender of the First Amendment, died in Las Vegas on Aug. 23. Hinueber, who was 66, worked at the RJ and other newspapers for 42 years. On Saturday, his friends and family gathered for a memorial service.
Army veteran honored in Henderson event
Army Sgt. Adam Poppenhouse was honored by fellow veterans in an event hosted by a One Hero at a Time at the Henderson Events Center.
Michelle Obama and Keegan-Michael Key urge Nevadans to vote
Former first lady Michelle Obama and comedian Keegan-Michael Key urged Nevadans to vote at Chaparral High School in Las Vegas Sunday, Sep. 23, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Nevada Task Force One Cheers Golden Knights
Nevada Task Force One Cheers Golden Knights
1 dead, 1 wounded in North Las Vegas standoff
A woman was hospitalized with serious injuries on Thursday morning after being shot inside a North Las Vegas house. Police responded about 11 p.m. to a shooting at a home on the 5600 block of Tropic Breeze Street, near Ann Road and Bruce Street. The wounded woman, police believe, was shot by a man, who later barricaded himself inside the house. SWAT was called to assist, and when officers entered the house, they discovered the man dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Las Vegas Teen Makes Clothing Resale His Side Hustle
Las Vegas resident Reanu Elises, 18, started buying and selling streetwear online when he was a high school junior. Like many other young adults, the world of online resale applications like Depop and Mercari have made selling clothing online for a profit easy. Now, Elises spends his free time at thrift shops looking for rare and vintage clothing he can list on his on his shop. Now in his freshman year at UNLV as a business marketing major, Elises hopes to open a shop of his own one day and start his own clothing brand. He estimates that he's made about $1000 from just thrifted finds in the past year, which he'll use to buy more thrift clothing and help pay for expenses in college. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
Fruition Vineyards Encourages Young Entrepreneurs to "Buy, Flip, Dream"
Once a month, young adults gather at Fruition Vineyards on South Maryland Parkway near UNLV to dig through a stack of rare, vintage and designer clothing that's marked down well below it's resale value. Shop founder Valerie Julian began the vent, dubbed "Fruition Vineyards" in August after running her streetwear shop since 2005. The event gives young entrepreneurs the opportunity to "buy, flip, dream" according to Jean. Meaning that they're encouraged to buy the clothing for sale and find a way to resell it for a profit, then reinvest that into whatever dream they pursue: college, a hobby or their own resale business. Shoppers lined up starting an hour before noon on the last Saturday in April for the opportunity and spoke about what they hoped to do with their finds and profits. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
Local man goes under cover searching for answers to homelessness
Licensed mental health therapist Sheldon Jacobs spent 48 hours under cover posing as a homeless man in an attempt to gain perspective on the complex issue.
Social Work UNLV Lecturer's Calling
Ivet Aldaba-Valera was the first person in her family to graduate from both high school and college. The 33-year-old UNLV lecturer is now pursuing her Ph. D in public policy at the school and has used her degree in social work to engage with the young Latino and Latina community of Las Vegas. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
The world's longest racetrack could be coming to Pahrump
Spring Mountain Motor Resort and Country Club in Pahrump might be the first racetrack in the world longer than 16 miles long once the expansion is complete. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Gold Point townsperson talks about why he choose to live in a ghost town
Gold Point townsperson Walt Kremin talks about the ghost town in Nevada he calls home. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Search for missing 3-year-old boy at Sunset Park
Las Vegas police and Red Rock Search and Rescue team search for a missing child at Sunset Park in southeast Las Vegas on Sunday, Sept.2, 2018. (Chitose Suzuki/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like