AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

Sham charities in Georgia unpunished since 2013


 

The Noah’s Ark Children’s Care Home wanted your money, promising to put it toward “an inviting and loving home” for orphans.

But the home for foster children had been closed for years. It was no longer registered as a Georgia charity. Five of the six kids shown on the website as “children of the ark” were the founder’s own adopted children.

Yet the charity raised $658,000 in the five years after the last child left the home in 2010, Channel 2 Action News reported last month.

The holiday spirit and the Dec. 31 deadline for charitable tax write-offs will have Americans whipping out their checkbooks over the next several days, and the Noah’s Ark case shows how little some people look to see where their money is going.

The case is now in the hands of Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office, which launched its own investigation after inquiries from Channel 2.

For Kemp’s Securities and Charities division, which polices how nonprofits and solicitors drum up donations, the Noah’s Ark case has the potential to become its first significant regulatory action in years.  A review by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution of the division’s output during Kemp’s tenure, which you can read about here, found it hasn’t instigated any major punitive measure against a charitable organization since early 2013. Over the years, the division’s funding has been steadily slashed.

The AJC's review raised questions about how much Kemp’s office has been doing to protect Georgians from sham charities.

Kemp’s general counsel and assistant commissioner of Securities & Charities, Ryan Germany, said the division spends most of its time working with organizations to make sure they’re registered and following the rules, which wouldn’t be reflected in the documents reviewed by the AJC. Germany also said he has no immediate plans to request more funding to scrutinize charities.

“We’re doing everything we can to make sure that they’re properly regulated,” he said. “Our strategy is to show what we can do with the current budget, and to hopefully come in with some good wins under our belt before we take that type of action.”


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About the Author

Johnny Edwards is a member of the AJC’s investigative team, focusing on the private sector and state and federal regulation. He has worked at the newspaper since 2010.