A Smithtown nonprofit that was founded to benefit the town’s libraries but lost the right to fundraise will wind down operations and turn over its remaining funds to the library district in coming weeks, its president said.
“I’m in the process of rolling it up,” said Jim Teese, a political and public relations consultant with mainly GOP clients who is president of the Smithtown Library Foundation. “As soon as I have a treasurer lined up and enough board members lined up, we’ll have a legal vote to dissolve the foundation and transfer the money.”
He said about $24,000 remained in foundation accounts. The foundation had donated about $40,000 toward a library patio and made other smaller gifts, he said.
The foundation’s federal tax exempt status was revoked in 2012 because foundation officers didn’t make required financial filings, according to IRS records. Library district lawyer Kevin Seaman filed a 2014 complaint with the New York State Attorney General’s Charities Bureau asserting that the group had "ceased functioning several years ago" and had failed to account for its funds, according to records obtained from the district under a Freedom of Information request. The bureau canceled the foundation’s registration in February 2018, citing unfiled documents and unpaid fees. That cancellation made it illegal for the foundation to fundraise in New York.
The attorney general’s press office declined to make anyone available for an interview and declined to comment on what a spokesperson in an email called an “ongoing matter.” A question about the lag between IRS and New York State actions was not answered.
Teese disputed Seaman's assertion, in the 2014 complaint, that foundation officials had not been forthcoming about their operations. "We provided numbers and information from the bank" to library district officials, he said. The foundation had considered and rejected the idea of an independent audit because it was too costly, he said.
The foundation raised money through an annual banquet but board members believed fundraising was weakened by the efforts of another charitable organization, Friends of the Library, which also raised money for the library, and because Smithtown residents already paid taxes to the library district, Teese said. The foundation didn’t close because board members were trying to decide if they should “reinvigorate” the foundation because “we still had funds and purpose and the library still had needs,” he said.
Former foundation treasurer Patrick E. Byrne Jr. told the district in a 2013 letter obtained from the district that he had resigned partly because the group did not employ the services of an independent auditor. Former library district president Anthony Monteleone warned Teese in a 2014 letter that the board had “grave concern regarding the status and viability” of the foundation.
Smithtown Library Director Robert Lusak said district officials would consult with Seaman about how to properly use its prospective windfall, but that he and library supporters had some ideas, including children's activity tables and water bottle filling stations.