Tri-Valley Community Foundation acts as a conservator of money set aside for Tracy-area charities by GWF Energy, operator of the power plant west of the city.
According to GWF spokesman Riley Jones, the company gave $55,000 a year beginning in 2003 for the use of organizations such as Tracy Interfaith Ministries, McHenry House Family Shelter and Boys & Girls Clubs of Tracy, with Tri-Valley as intermediary. GWF also established a $200,000 trust fund for use after 2013, when its annual contributions would cease.
Tri-Valley holds the money and confirms that the planned recipients are qualified nonprofits.
It writes the checks when asked to distribute the money.
But according to Gene Birk, the treasurer for the 12-person committee in Tracy that helps decide which charities benefit from the GWF fund, none of the money that should be in the account is there.
“There is no money,” Birk said Monday, June 4. “Though according to my financial statement, we have $243,000.”
Birk said he discovered the discrepancy last week, when he requested two $2,500 checks destined for high school seniors as scholarships.
When Tri-Valley was asked for the money on behalf of the Tracy GWF community committee, Birk said he was told the checks couldn’t be cut.
Jones, who sits in on the committee meetings, called Birk’s news a surprise.
“Our last meeting was in May, and I had the latest financial document, and it showed for the year all of the deposits and all of the withdrawals and showed what our balance was,” Jones said Monday.
“I don’t know that the money isn’t there, nor do I know if it is there,” he continued. “All I know is I have the financial (statement) saying the money is there.”
Jones said Monday that he had not received an audit and an updated balance statement he requested about three weeks ago.
If the money remains unaccounted for, charities like Tracy Interfaith could be left in the lurch.
Darlene Quinn, the director of Tracy Interfaith, said her nonprofit was counting on $18,000 this year from the GWF fund.
“We just heard that last month that had been approved,” Quinn said. “It’s a big hit. The money that we have got from the GWF has been used primarily for helping people with (Pacific Gas & Electric Co.), water, rent, funerals — all kinds of assistance of that type of nature.”
She said the news came at an especially bad time, as demand for help continues to increase. Tracy Interfaith had 1,700 people interview for assistance in May, an increase of more than 200 people from May 2011.
“It’s not getting better,” she said.
Jones added Thursday that Tri-Valley’s acting director, retired Superior Court judge Ron Hyde, was working with GWF to sort out the problem so the money could be distributed.
Hyde took over as acting director of the organization when former director David Rice was ousted by the board, according to a May 31 report by the Pleasanton Weekly.
Messages left for Hyde with a Tri-Valley receptionist on Monday and Thursday were not returned before deadline.
According to the same report from the Pleasanton Weekly, Tri-Valley tax documents showed that the organization spent more money than it took in starting in 2006, and the organization spent $445,000 more than it had during the 2009-10 fiscal year.
Jones said GWF likely wasn’t the only company affected.
The Pleasanton Weekly also reported that Livermore’s Sandia National Laboratories decided to withdraw its business from Tri-Valley, and other outfits could do the same.
Jones did not elaborate about any future action GWF might take.
“All I can tell you is that, at this point, we’re not sure which direction everything is going to go,” Jones said. “There are insurance companies involved.”
Birk said he was most disappointed for the new high school graduates who expected scholarships. He is considering setting up a separate fund to raise money for the students.
“All of a sudden I have to call and say, ‘I don’t have $2,500,’” Birk said, his voice heavy with emotion. “I want this girl to go to school. I was crying last night at home to my wife, and I was telling her, ‘It’s not fair.’”