SDSU's Campanile Foundation dinged by auditors

Toni Atkins campaign fat with money

SDSU’s non-profit Campanile Foundation has once again run afoul of auditors for the California State University system
  • SDSU’s non-profit Campanile Foundation has once again run afoul of auditors for the California State University system

Campanile delinquents

Money-handling by San Diego State University’s non-profit Campanile Foundation, which features a glittering array of local movers and shakers on its board, has once again run afoul of auditors for the California State University system. Known as auxiliary organizations, the Campanile Foundation and its cousins the San Diego State University Research Foundation, Aztec Shops, and Associated Students are non-profits controlled by SDSU that have traditionally been prone to financial shenanigans.

Former mayor Jerry Sanders chairs SDSU’s  somewhat dysfunctional Campanile Foundation.

Former mayor Jerry Sanders chairs SDSU’s somewhat dysfunctional Campanile Foundation.

“A company owned by a campus faculty member improperly included the university name in its name, and the company obtained a deeply discounted facility rental rate from [Associated Students], which appeared to be a conflict of interest,” said an August 2016 audit regarding an unidentified university staffer. “For a one‐year period from August 2014 to August 2015, this resulted in a discount of $12,116, which appeared to be a conflict of interest in which the faculty member obtained a personal benefit because of his association with the campus.”

The same report also called out Campanile for going easy on six-figure donors who failed to come up with contributions as promised. “In four instances, collection and follow‐up activity was not documented to facilitate collection of delinquent pledges receivable,” the audit noted. “The delinquent pledges receivable, totaling $275,000, were outstanding from 410 to 2,035 days.” Added the document, “Inadequate control over delinquent pledges receivable and pledge write‐offs reduces the likelihood of collection, negatively impacts cash flow, and increases the risk that receivables will not be accurately reflected in financial statements.”

The non-profit’s board promised to do better, but a new report released May 20 by CSU shows that despite the previous warning, auditors have continued to question Campanile’s collection practices. “Collection efforts and communications were not consistently documented,” says the latest audit, noting that auditors found little evidence that the non-profit has even tried to get what it was owed from the unnamed deadbeats. “[Campanile] required collection efforts, including pledge statements, emails, phone calls, and in-person meetings, to be captured in the Advance Donor System,” says the document. “Three pledges we reviewed did not include documented collection efforts or had a lapse of two to ten years between collection attempts or communication with the donors.”

Add auditors, who do not specify a dollar value to the problem: “We reviewed eight pledges written off during the audit scope period and noted that three were written off between four to nine fiscal years after the last pledge payment.”

Campanile’s chronic failure to collect is laid by school insiders to the reluctance of well-heeled board members to embarrass fellow wealthy donors and alumni — including fast-talking real estate developers and other would-be entrepreneurs who inflate their reputations with insufficient funds. This year’s Campanile chairman is San Diego Republican ex-mayor Jerry Sanders, who runs the local chamber of commerce. He succeeded ex-city manager Jack McGrory, now a California University System trustee who has been the public face of SDSU’s efforts to take control of the city-owned real estate formerly known as Qualcomm Stadium. The latest SDSU-agreed-to deadline to fix Campanile’s collections problem arrives next month, the audit says.

Toni Atkins is smiling because people seem to love giving her money.

Toni Atkins is smiling because people seem to love giving her money.

Forever campaign

California state Senate leader Toni Atkins has been raising plenty of off-election year cash for her so-called ballot measure committee, which finances political causes near and dear to the San Diego Democrat. From the beginning of March through May 13, disclosure records show, Atkins raked in a total of $58,600 from megadonors with financial interests in the legislature’s work including National Vision, Inc. of Duluth, Georgia ($9400) and the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians ($10,000). Fuel cell producer Bloom Energy came up with $15,000 and the California Dental Society Political Action Committee kicked in $14,460. Ghost Management Group of Irvine, which runs the online marijuana dispensary finder Weedmaps.com, gave $5000 on April 29 . A year ago, state pot regulators told the company to stop advertising unlicensed operators or face unspecified “criminal and administrative penalties,” per a March 2018 news release

Jim Desmond

Jim Desmond

Star power

With two new members in place, Democrat Nathan Fletcher and Republican Jim Desmond, the county board of supervisors are looking to a hire a high-powered public relations outfit to showcase their tenure. “The County of San Diego is seeking a qualified, full-service advertising, marketing, and public relations media agency to provide creative and effective multimedia products and services to various County Departments,” says a May 7 request for proposals. “The goal is to communicate more effectively with the diverse population of San Diego County residents on issues that impact the County.”

Even the use of polling and focus groups is contemplated. “Contractor shall conduct market research in support of client campaigns and projects as needed when requested by the County Department Representative.” Flashy logos, prosaically describe by the proposal request, also make the list: “Contractor shall use existing designs and conceptualize new designs for the County for the purposes of but not limited to, print and digital outreach materials.” No price limit for the work is provided.

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Comments

This is a funny column. Say it isn't so -- deadbeats among donors to the Campanile Foundation at San Diego State! And County Supervisors looking for public relations help? How about Porter-Novelli? They gave us Mayor Sunny.

From a purely financial standpoint, I'm not sure that unpaid pledges should be carried on the books of the foundation. As something that is unenforceable, I'd be more in favor of recording them when, and only when, the funds arrive. If they are booked, a generous allowance for those that will prove un-collectible should be recorded as an offset. None of that, however, excuses their failure to pursue the overdue promises, and to act to reverse those on the books as soon as they are determined to be phantom dollars. (Another tool to collect on the pledges might be some subtle but effective not-so-public shaming of those who are deadbeats.)

Why is it that good ol' Jerry S is involved with so many things of dubious value? Anything that involves him or Jack McGrory is suspect, and should be avoided. If this new president of SDSU wants to clean things up, a good place to start would be to see to it that the foundation is in good, clean hands.

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