SCORE’s retraction demand and our response

See SCORE’s original letter here.

See inewsource‘s response letter here.

June 11, 2015

Mr. Powers,

This letter responds to your May 29, 2015, letter with the subject: “Retraction of Erroneous Statements Regarding the Southwest Center on Renewable Energy (SCORE) in May 28, 2015 Article “Nonprofits Linked to San Diego Attorney Cory Briggs Flout State, Federal Laws.”

Your letter began by stating the reporting contained “a series of erroneous statements regarding the Southwest Center on Renewable Energy (SCORE).” You also said “SCORE is not flouting any state or federal laws.” You then went on to request that we formally retract the following four points, which we will address point by point.

1.    “First, the article erroneously states that SCORE exists only on paper. I am the president/CEO of the SCORE, and have been since the organization was founded. SCORE is an active, functional non-profit that continues to serve its mission of advancing renewable energy resources in the San Diego area and California.”

inewsource does not debate that you are the CEO/President of SCORE and have been since its founding. That information is contained in SCORE’s federal and state filings and is represented as such in the story.

The story accurately reported “SCORE’s governing board is comprised of Briggs’ partner, Cacciatore, his cousin, Langwasser, and his associate, Bill Powers, a prominent environmentalist and advocate for solar energy.”

The story also accurately reported SCORE “…appears to exist only on paper, despite reportedly raising more than $855,000 in contributions and grants since its inception and spending more than $450,500 on “research,” “advocacy” and “organizing.”

After an extensive online search, inewsource found the name of the group only in one place — its government filings.”

The only information inewsource could find about SCORE’s purported activities or presence in the community was statements made in those same filings. SCORE appears to have no website, no press release(s), no news coverage, no blog, no social media account(s), no interaction with other nonprofits or community groups, no interaction with government agencies and no interaction with the public — despite claiming to have spent $246,000 on “advocacy and organizing” in two years and $184,000 on “research” in two years, according to SCORE’s FY 2014 and FY 2015 IRS Form 990s. If you have any evidence, such as literature, press releases or educational seminars, to show us this money was used for those purposes, we will read it and report on it.

Furthermore, inewsource reporters Brad Racino and Brooke Williams called you to speak about SCORE and request any additional information you could provide on May 13, 2015 at 5:25 p.m. and again on May 14, 2015 at 1:30 p.m. Both times they left a message for you describing the nature of their call. On May 15, upon a third try, it appeared your phone was no longer functional.

In your retraction demand, you state “SCORE is an active, functional non-profit that continues to serve its mission of advancing renewable energy resources in the San Diego area and California” but you did not provide any evidence or examples of that statement.  Please tell us how SCORE is serving its mission of advancing renewable energy resources and provide any supporting documentation, and we will read and report on those documents.

2. Second, you assert that SCORE filed a federal tax statement in 2009 that did not account for approximately $230,000 in funds listed as assets by SCORE at the beginning of the 2009 tax year. The 2009 SCORE tax filing referenced in the article shows on Line 21 that $232,954 remained as a SCORE financial asset at the end of the 2009 tax year. There is a clerical error on the form, as the $232,954 value should have been copied to a subsequent line (Line 27) as the tax form instructions state, instead of “0”. The 2009 tax form contains all the information necessary to verify that the $232,954 remained a SCORE asset at the end of the 2009 tax year. The clerical error on Line 27 in the 2009 tax filing was not caught at the time and was copied to the same line in the 2010 filing.

Thank you for telling us this was a clerical error in the FY 2010 Form 990. But that does not explain where the money went the following year. According to the next year’s federal filings (FY 2011), SCORE had $0 in net assets or fund balances at the beginning of the year and $0 in net assets or fund balances at the end of the year. At some point, that $230,000 was spent but not accounted for. Or all following forms are wrong and under represent the total assets of the corporation. Please provide us with any further information to explain where the money went. We will read them and report on them.

3. Third, you assert that SCORE’s authorization to operate as a California non-profit was suspended by the state Attorney General’s (AG) Office for failure to submit a necessary form, identified by the AG’s Office as the 2009 Annual Registration Form, in a timely manner. SCORE has dutifully filed its Annual Registration Forms with the AG’s Office     since 2009, as is evident on the SCORE webpage on the AG’s charitable organizations website. The SCORE 2009 Annual Registration Form, signed by me and date-stamped “received” by the AG’s Office on September 11, 2009, is attached. The AG’s Office lost track of this 2009 filing. This did precipitate a suspension letter from the AG’s Office, though the suspension letter was issued to obtain the SCORE 2009 Annual Registration Form that the AG’s Office already had in its possession and had misplaced. This matter has been resolved, as shown on the attached May 29, 2015 screenshot of SCORE’s status as “current” on the AG’s Office charitable trusts website.

According to Kristin Ford, Press Secretary for the California Attorney General’s Office, SCORE was delinquent because its paperwork was incomplete for two years. According to Ford, the state agency did not receive SCORE’s correct and updated paperwork to update the group’s status to “current” until May 29, 2015. That is the day after our story published and two weeks after inewsource reporters reached out to you and to Ms. Langwasser about SCORE’s paperwork. Therefore, we see nothing untrue about the facts in our story as they were published.

4. Fourth, KPBS relies in the article on a forensic accountant who claims, without citing any specific deficiencies, that SCORE’s accounting practices are “egregiously wrong.” SCORE has dutifully filed its federal 990 tax statements with the IRS since 2009, and all of these tax filings have been accepted by the IRS without an audit. The reliance of KPBS on very negative, non- specific commentary by this forensic accountant amounts to little more than unsubstantiated expert slander unless the accountant identifies specific substantive deficiencies that can be corroborated, which he does not.

First, the fact that SCORE’s filings have been accepted by the IRS without an audit by no means indicates that the filings are correct. The expert who went over SCORE’s filings, Paul Scott, is a forensic accountant. Mr. Scott’s belief that federal filings missing nearly a quarter-million dollars are egregiously wrong is his expert opinion, and we reported that accurately. We see nothing untrue about our reporting on Mr. Scott’s opinion.

For the reasons we have set forth, we are unaware of any basis to remove the article or issue any corrections. To the extent that you have any documentation or other responses to correct any errors, if they exist, please forward it to us on or before 5 p.m. Friday, June 12, 2015 and we will be happy to review it.

shadow-ornament

May 29, 2015

Subject: Retraction of Erroneous Statements Regarding the Southwest Center on Renewable Energy (SCORE) in May 28, 2015 Article “Nonprofits Linked to San Diego Attorney Cory Briggs Flout State, Federal Laws”

Dear Tom, Laura, and Lorie:

KPBS has a reputation for journalistic integrity in the San Diego community. The KPBS May 28, 2015 online article “Nonprofits Linked to San Diego Attorney Cory Briggs Flout State, Federal Laws” made a series of erroneous statements regarding the Southwest Center on Renewable Energy (SCORE). SCORE is not flouting any state or federal laws. In keeping with your reputation for journalistic integrity I request that you formally retract these statements, which are described below.

First, the article erroneously states that SCORE exists only on paper. I am the president/CEO of the SCORE, and have been since the organization was founded. SCORE is an active, functional non-profit that continues to serve its mission of advancing renewable energy resources in the San Diego area and California.

Second, you assert that SCORE filed a federal tax statement in 2009 that did not account for approximately $230,000 in funds listed as assets by SCORE at the beginning of the 2009 tax year. The 2009 SCORE tax filing referenced in the article shows on Line 21 that $232,954 remained as a SCORE financial asset at the end of the 2009 tax year. There is a clerical error on the form, as the $232,954 value should have been copied to a subsequent line (Line 27) as the tax form instructions state, instead of “0”. The 2009 tax form contains all the information necessary to verify that the $232,954 remained a SCORE asset at the end of the 2009 tax year. The clerical error on Line 27 in the 2009 tax filing was not caught at the time and was copied to the same line in the 2010 filing.

SCORE appreciates KPBS pointing-out these two clerical errors. However, KPBS used these two connected clerical errors on the 2009 and 2010 SCORE 990 tax filings to imply in the story that the funds were improperly disbursed by SCORE and went missing. This is factually incorrect.

Third, you assert that SCORE’s authorization to operate as a California non-profit was suspended by the state Attorney General’s (AG) Office for failure to submit a necessary form, identified by the AG’s Office as the 2009 Annual Registration Form, in a timely manner. SCORE has dutifully filed its Annual Registration Forms with the AG’s Office since 2009, as is evident on the SCORE webpage on the AG’s charitable organizations website. The SCORE 2009 Annual Registration Form, signed by me and date-stamped “received” by the AG’s Office on September 11, 2009, is attached. The AG’s Office lost track of this 2009 filing. This did precipitate a suspension letter from the AG’s Office, though the suspension letter was issued to obtain the SCORE 2009 Annual Registration Form that the AG’s Office already had in its possession and had misplaced. This matter has been resolved, as shown on the attached May 29, 2015 screenshot of SCORE’s status as “current” on the AG’s Office charitable trusts website.

Fourth, KPBS relies in the article on a forensic accountant who claims, without citing any specific deficiencies, that SCORE’s accounting practices are “egregiously wrong.” SCORE has dutifully filed its federal 990 tax statements with the IRS since 2009, and all of these tax filings have been accepted by the IRS without an audit. The reliance of KPBS on very negative, non- specific commentary by this forensic accountant amounts to little more than unsubstantiated expert slander unless the accountant identifies specific substantive deficiencies that can be corroborated, which he does not.

The 2009 and 2010 SCORE 990 tax filings indicate that directors contribute about a half-hour per week to SCORE activities. That is accurate information.

SCORE is fulfilling its mission of advancing renewable energy resources in the San Diego area and California. SCORE requests that KPBS retract its statements that SCORE: 1) exists only on paper, 2) mishandled $230,000 in assets in 2009, and 3) is suspended from operating by the AG’s Office. Please contact me at (619) 295-2072 if you have any questions about this request.

Sincerely,

Bill Powers, P.E. President/CEO

 

shadow-ornament

We'll let you know when big things happen.

About Brad Racino:

Brad Racino is a senior reporter and assistant director at inewsource. To contact him with tips, suggestions or corrections, please email bradracino at inewsource dot org.