Sunny
85°
Sunny
Hi 83° | Lo 62°

Nashua Chief Seeks Review of Police Relief Association Finances

Nashua — Questions raised about a police charitable group have led the department’s chief to ask the state Attorney General’s Office to review the association’s operations and procedures.

Prompted by concerns raised within the department, Chief John Seusing recently asked officials in the Attorney General’s Charitable Trusts Unit to review the Nashua Police Relief Association, a charitable group that provides insurance and other health benefits to current and retired officers.

The questions about the group’s governance and finances emerged earlier this year when members briefly discussed raising membership dues, currently about $2.50 a week.

Taking a deeper look into the group’s finances, members discovered that certain police officers are paid through organization funds to clean and maintain the group’s Kinsley Street facility, which led to further questions and concerns, said Seusing, who has been a dues-paying member for 30 years.

“There are a lot of members here, including myself … who have never inquired into exactly how (the association) is run, what kind of income they bring in, what expenditures that go out,” he said Friday. “It got to the point where we needed to have someone come in and look to see if they’re doing everything right. … It’s extremely important that members of the relief association have confidence in the board that’s running it.”

Nashua Police Capt. Scott Hammond, listed most recently as the group president, could not be reached Friday for comment, nor could Sgt. Kevin Rourke, listed as the group’s vice-president.

Seusing, who does not sit on the association board, acknowledged that some of the questions raised surround Deputy Chief Scott Howe, a former association president, who is paid weekly for work done at the Kinsley Street office, which hosts meetings and other group functions, and also serves as a rest area for off-duty officers.

Howe, who was paid a salary of $113,217 in 2012, according to city records, earns roughly $50 a week to maintain and clean the two-story building, the chief said.

The association has struggled in recent years to find maintenance workers to work for that rate. So, unbeknownst to many of the members, the association has paid one of its own members for the last 10 years, Seusing said.

Howe did not return calls for comment for this story.

“I have ... been told they’ve had trouble finding people to clean (the building) for that amount of money, which is why members of the association were doing it,” Seusing said. “When (members) saw certain people were getting paid, that raised some eyebrows.”

Senior Attorney General Anthony Blenkinsop, head of the Attorney General’s Charitable Trust Unit, declined to release details of the case, saying only that he recently asked the association for “certain information consistent with my oversight authority.”

But, Seusing said that initial conversations suggested no signs of any wrongdoing or misconduct. Still, investigators will continue to review the case to make sure association officers are following all the necessary rules and regulations.

“Certainly there was no allegations of criminal wrongdoing, but I think it just raised questions about … what’s the proper record-keeping,” Seusing said. “We’re talking about policemen. When they get into board positions, they haven’t necessarily had any experience or guidance on the proper way to run a nonprofit. That’s why it’s important an audit is done.”

According to the Nashua Police website, the relief association formed in 1941. State documents show it registered with the Secretary of State’s Office in 1984.

The group was briefly suspended in 2006 and 2011 after officials failed to file required documentation. But, in both cases, it was quickly reinstated after filing the appropriate paperwork.

Recent federal tax filings show the relief association had $127,852 in total assets in 2011, the most recent data available.

That year, the group took in $52,356 in total revenues, including $22,850 from program services and $24,255 in “other revenues.” But, according to the documents, group officers spent $68,073 in 2011, leaving it down $15,717 for the year.

Expenditures included $14,592 in benefits to association members and $8,100 in salary to association officers. That total covers $1,000 paid to Hammond, the president, Rourke, the vice president, and two other officers, but does not include any funds paid to Howe, who received his payments through a Visa debit card, said Seusing, who declined to comment on the reason for that method of payment.

As of Friday afternoon, association officers had not yet responded to the attorney general’s request for information, but Blenkinsop, of the charitable trusts unit, gave them until April 15 to do so, he said.

“We’re going to let the charitable trusts unit do their job. They’ve told me this type of review is very common with nonprofits,” Seusing said. “They also offer trainings to board members of nonprofits to make sure they’re following the procedures. Maybe that’s something we can take advantage of. We just want to instill that confidence and trust … back into the board. That’s very important.”