Kalamazoo nonprofit keeps some money in the family


    Kalamazoo County Commissioner Stephanie Moore, picture at a board meeting, received more than $34,000 in compensation from Mothers of Hope, a nonprofit organization operated by her mother. (WWMT)

    Tax records show a local nonprofit paid 25 percent of the money it raised in 2016 to Kalamazoo County Commissioner Stephanie Moore. Moore is the daughter of Gwen Lanier, founder and president of Mothers of Hope.

    The nonprofit paid Moore $34,326 to work part time as a program coordinator and consultant for Mothers of Hope. According to 2016 tax filings, Moore worked 15 to 20 hours a week; average that out and Moore was paid close to $38 an hour.

    Mothers of Hope also paid an administrative consultant $20,000 to work 12 hours a week in 2016, which comes out to be $32 an hour.

    That same year, Mothers of Hope brought in more than $136,623 through contributions, gifts, grants and fundraising events, but outspent its total revenue at a loss of $11,500, according to tax records.

    Spokesperson, attorney and Mothers of Hope board member Dorphine Payne told Newschannel 3 "whatever we do with our money is effective and well spent."

    Tax records also show in 2016 Mothers of Hope spent $55,909 in other expenses. Handwritten and difficult to read, the detailed account of the nonprofit’s other expenses listed on its 2016 tax filing include program expenses, accounting software, insurance and some travel.

    The president of the Chicago-based watchdog group "Charity Watch" told Newschannel 3 any nonprofit that hires a family member needs to justify that it’s in the best interest of the organization and not nepotism.

    “A lot of scandals in the nonprofit field take place when family gets involved because internal controls break down and collusion is too easy to take place when family is working together,” Charity Watch President Daniel Borohcoff said.

    Mothers of Hope board member Don Cooney said, “Stephanie Moore does all the leg work for the entire organization and if she was paid $34,000 she earned every penny."

    In its mission statement, Mothers of Hope says the nonprofit “empowers and strengthens women, families, and communities to rise above the effects of substance use disorders, poverty, violence and systemic inequities.”

    The 2017 tax filing does not list Moore as a paid, contracted employee nor any other paid employees.

    In that tax year under "other expenses" Mothers of Hope spent $46,551 on "organization and contract cost for administrative and program support to work to pull in as many grants to support the work of Mothers of Hope."

    Moore told Newschannel 3 she does a lot of consulting work for various organizations. She would not say if she still received a paycheck from her mom’s nonprofit and directed all questions to Mothers of Hope.

    Moore’s mom, the nonprofit's founder and board president Gwen Lanier, contacted by telephone, said she had "absolutely nothing to say" before hanging up the phone.

    Charity Watch raised a number of questions after reviewing Mother of Hope’s 2016 tax filings, including:

    • Who made the decision to hire Moore as a consultant?
    • Did Mothers of Hope conduct a salary survey to settle on the rate of pay for Moore?
    • Did the nonprofit post the position and allow others to apply?

    Those are questions Newschannel 3 tried to ask Mothers of Hope without success.

    Payne sent Newschannel 3 the following statement in response to those questions:

    “For over 18 years as a private not-for-profit organization, Mothers of Hope has proudly served citizens in Kalamazoo. We are grateful for each and every imminently qualified volunteer, consultant, partnering organization and community leader who participates with us in implementing the vision of our founders: to address the opioid addiction crisis; and to mitigate its negative impact on familial, neighborhood, and community structures in Kalamazoo.”

    The statement went on to address the Michigan State Police investigation into the Kalamazoo County Treasurer’s Office, which transferred a house, what is now Mother of Hope’s headquarters, to the organization for one dollar.

    Although not the focus of this story, the nonprofit’s statement continued:

    “Mothers of Hope is aware of the most recent news coverage and allegations surrounding an investigation involving the Kalamazoo County Treasurer’s Office. We take seriously and categorically deny any allegation that either directly or indirectly insinuates that our organization and/or affiliates are engaged in unethical or illegal actions as it relates to implementing our mission; and continue to remain focused on the important work before us.”

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