On Dec. 21, Cameron Whitten, executive director of Portland nonprofit Know Your City, sent out a puzzling email:
“I am sending this email to share some difficult news with you,” Whitten wrote. “After celebrating six years of providing vital community programming, our Board of Directors held an emergency board meeting in November after discovering financial mismanagement that took place during former organizational leadership. The Board reacted swiftly to address the problem, and was faced with the question about whether Know Your City would have to close indefinitely.”
Whitten's email asked supporters of Know Your City, a multicultural history organization formerly called the Dill Pickle Club, to contribute $12,000 by year's end to keep Know Your City from closing.
On Dec. 23, former Know Your City executive director Marc Moscato told Oregon Public Broadcasting that the organization's money woes "certainly didn't happen overnight."
Today, the board sent out a second email providing a little more information about the financial shortfall.
“We’d like to offer a public apology for the email that was sent out last Monday. It was difficult to share the financial situation that the organization faces, but our mission and values are about truth and justice. It was imperative to be honest to our community about why Know Your City has transitioned in the way it has. The official statement released by our Board of Directors left a few questions unanswered—we apologize for that—and we will clarify our statements as much as possible.
In regards to using the term ‘former organizational leadership’—we recognize that the organization’s financial health is a collective responsibility not belonging to just one individual. The former organizational leadership on the Board needed to do a better job of guaranteeing the financial health of the organization. That being said, the financial mismanagement was the result of irresponsible behavior known by few within the organization, but exposed all board members to unpaid taxes and jeopardized the existence of Know Your City. This information was only revealed to the former Board President, Chair, and Secretary during the period in which KYC appointed its Interim Executive Director. Several board members have remained with the organization and are committed to accountability through acting quickly and transparently—because we all want to give Know Your City its chance to thrive in 2016.”
The board also pledged an independent review of Know Your City's books and will hold a community meeting Jan. 14 at 6 pm at the organization's office at 800 NW 6th Ave., No. 331.
Know Your City's last publicly available tax return, filed in April 2013 for the tax year 2012, showed revenues of $57,000 and expenses of $63,000.
Updated at 11:45 am: Know Your City filed partial tax forms with the state for 2013 and 2014. Although the forms are incomplete, they appear to show a growth in revenue and a small positive balance at the end of 2014.
The organization reported revenue of $107,000 for 2013, then failed to disclose revenue for 2014 on the form it filed. A representative of the organization verbally told the agency 2014 revenue was $149,000, according to Oregon Department of Justice spokeswoman Kristina Edmunson. The 2014 form shows net assets of just over $6,000 at the end of that year.
The appeal for support has so far raised $3,581 from 102 donors.