SPOKANE, Wash—The City of Spokane prepared to ask voters for approval on a $60 million bond to help clean-up Riverfront Park in November despite, a third party with the potential to donate millions.
The city rejected offers by the Friends of Riverfront Park, who began fundraising in 2012. The nonprofit’s founders said they believed that the city rejected them because it might give the perception that public money was not needed.
The founders, Don and Marlene Allen, started the nonprofit in 2012 to help raise money for the aging park. That same year, the organization received a letter of intent, stating the city planned to develop a working relationship with the group and would be able to seek donations. Additionally, the city told the organization a memorandum of understanding was being drafted for approval.
The Allens began contacting several prominent families in the area and secured millions of dollars in potential donations toward the park.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Don Allen. “I enjoy sales. I’ve always been in sales. It was great to meet leader and shakers and movers of this community.”
The city told the Friends of Riverside Park in 2013 that things were moving too fast.
Parks Director Leroy Eadie said he appreciated their hard work, but it was undermining the progress of the city’s plan for Riverfront Park, which was still in process.
“They didn’t inform us that they were out meeting with groups and they didn’t have the MOU signed yet,” said Eadie.
Eadie also said the group had not presented the paperwork necessary to identify themselves as a nonprofit.
“They had not created anything that was shown to us that was a legitimate nonprofit and because they did not have the MOU, they were not a legitimate Friends group for Parks and Rec,” Eadie said.
KREM 2 obtained the 501(c)(3) application for nonprofit status that the organization set-up in October 2012, as well as an e-mails from city staffers that suggested they were getting guidance from city employees.
The couple said they could not believe the city’s argument.
“It just crushed us,” said Don. “When we were out, we were working with the plan they had in place.”
The city eventually asked the Friends of Riverfront Park to cease and desist their fundraising efforts.
“They were creating projects in the park, not running those projects through us at all, then taking those projects they created on their own out to potential donors,” said Eadie.
The Allens denied those accusations.
“We never did this to get involved in all of these arguments and things like this,” Don said. “We just wanted to see if one person can make a difference.”
Despite their differences, the Allens said they still wanted to work with the parks board to help raise money and Eadie said he would welcome them back if they could work within the city’s guidelines.