Thursday, August 27, 2009


UJC was required by IRS regulation to file its 2008 Form 990 by November 15, 2008 -- five months and 15 days after the close of its fiscal year. I am going to assume that the filing was done on time, fully disclosing UJC's expenses and disbursements for the period July 1, 2007 - June 30, 2008. I have to assume it was done because UJC has never made public the 2008 Form 990.

If you penetrate the UJC Website, you can access the 2007 Form 990 (for Fiscal Year 2006). Here's how: you have to know to go to "About UJC" page, then you will find a Link to the Guidestar website. There you must register as a "User" (there is no fee). Then you have to locate "United Jewish Community" and then the Link to IRS Forms 990. Where today you will find all of the disclosures for 2006. This, to UJC's leaders represents "transparency." Suggest to them that you think it would be a lot easier and far more timely to post the current 990 on the UJC website and the answer you will get is "we think we are fully compliant with the laws under which we operate" or something similar.

Well, here is how I see it -- UJC is about as opaque as it gets. Blame Guidestar for not having the current 990 up on its website? Come on. UJC is to be the model for accountability and disclosure. Put the 2008 Form 990 on the UJC website today. Send it to every Federation CEO and lay Chair. Advise UJC Board members that the Form 990 is available on the UJC website. Come on, you can do it!! Merely stating "we're in compliance with the regulations" doesn't cut it. Unless, of course, you have something that someone wants to hide; then we will have a whole different conversation, won't we? Then there is the 990 itself -- designed, perhaps, to inform the IRS, it offers little information of value to Directors, Federations, etc.

But, I digress. I wrote CFO/COO Sam Astrof and asked for a copy of the 2008 990. No questions (like "what do you want if for?); Sam graciously and professionally, as one would expect from him, had the 2008 990 (summarizing 2007 financials) e-mailed to me. It is a remarkable and complex document. I urge you all to get it, look at it, analyze it. Here's what you'll find...or not:

~ Howard's outrageous compensation and a $161,000 "expense reimbursement" (for what exactly?)-- the expense reimbursement for all other senior professionals at UJC -- $0000. Of course. (And, this, as a reminder -- for FY 2007).

~ Remarkable increases in compensation for selected professionals between 2007 and 2006 -- the CEO's increase was contractual. (Readers of the 990 should be warned. Often the IRS rules require that vested pension benefits be "grossed up" and reported as income in the current year. This frequently distorts real "salary." That was not the case with Mr. Rieger and company.)

~ Let's say you wanted to locate the expense paid for the unauthorized "investment" in Sheatufim. You recall, $250,000 per year for each of three years. Looked for it at length. Maybe this was it per the 990: "Institutional advancement -- securing of private funding for new initiatives -- $251,920." Or, maybe not. Do you think UJC's small group of insiders wanted to disguise this investment because it had never been processed within UJC's governance? Nah.

~ You know Wyndham Jade, the agency handling hotels, conference and GA contracts and registrations and G-d knows what else for UJC? Paid $660,306 in 2007.

~ A "Communications and Maint. Consultant" (if you know what that is, let me know, would you), Rabinowitz/Dorf, was paid $403,590. For what you might ask?

~ UJC's great "benchmarking" project -- apparently couldn't be done in-house with a $40 million Budget, so a Cambridge, MA firm was paid $204,000.

And, there is more....much more. Get a copy of the 990 for yourself. Read it. Try to penetrate it. Ask some questions. Get engaged. You will be told, as always: "Trust us." Sure.



1 comment:

RWEX said...

Dear Anonymous -- the "Anon" who wrote to suggest that I focus on the 990's filed (or not) by the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, its JUF and Facilities Corporation, suggesting that my community's "transparency" is lacking as well:

Thanks for the good advice, and excellent research. I will publish your Comment when you provide me your name. In the alternative, you may wish to begin your own Blog.