How Did the Santa Ana Police Chief's Neighbor Become the Head of the City's Cop Charity?

Last summer, several Santa Ana Police Explorers toiled under the Southern California sun for days in an effort to raise money for their program. The mostly teenage volunteers and aspiring cops sold Fourth of July fireworks, managing every aspect of the operation: sales, advertising, even guarding the stand during off hours. For their labor, they expected roughly $10,000 of profit, according to police sources that asked to remain anonymous. The money was to be spent on various program expenses, including a movie night for the cadets.

"We really didn't have any mechanism to accept donations other than going to the City Council," says Rojas. "I don't want my staff soliciting donations. I had thrown that idea out to Bill Cunningham, and then he ran with it and set up the foundation."

To make the donations legal, however, the Explorers first had to hand the cash to the Santa Ana Police Foundation (SAPF), a nonprofit run by Orange resident Bill Cunningham that raises money for the department. Although it played no role in the fund-raising, SAPF seems to have won a nice commission, returning just $2,500 to the Explorers.

"The Explorers worked the entire thing," one source said. "Cunningham didn't do anything. He just collected the money. These kids, they're trying to find something to do, to stay off the streets. To have them exposed to something like that, I'm worried they won't want to get into law enforcement."

Founded in 2009, the SAPF's mission is to "bring police, business and youth together for a safer community, with programs funded by donations, grants and special events." The nonprofit collects donations made by the community destined for the police department to help fund projects they say would otherwise be unfunded—youth programs, police honor guard, mounted police, business training—as well as purchase new dogs and body armor for the K-9 unit.

But in attempting to accomplish that mission, a growing choir within the Santa Ana Police Department (SAPD) claims the foundation has lost direction, benefiting Cunningham more than any police programs.

From 2011 to 2012, IRS documents show the SAPF collected $238,962 from individual donations and grants, distributing $78,527 in grants during the same period. Instead of going to the police department, the rest of the money went to overhead, including bank fees, event expenses, transportation costs and paying salaries. (Normally, overhead of more than 10 percent or 20 percent is considered excessive; SAPF's 67 percent is off the charts.) During the same time period, Cunningham was scheduled to earn $153,000, according to an employment contract obtained by the Weekly, although IRS documents claim he earned roughly $90,000.

Between 2011 and 2012, three members of the organization's board voiced their concerns over the foundation's finances, then left their seats. According to a Weekly source, three more left at the end of 2013. Also that year, the foundation experienced an early drop in donations, ending the first 10 months of the year in the negative, according to internal documents acquired by the Weekly. During the same time period, Santa Ana Police Chief Carlos Rojas—who happens to be Cunningham's neighbor—reiterated to his department that the foundation was the only organization cleared to receive funds on behalf of the SAPD.

"The way the foundation came about was that we really didn't have any mechanism to accept donations other than going to the City Council," says Rojas, who is a non-voting member of the SAPF's board of directors. "I did some research on police foundations. Early on, I said, 'Okay, hey, it can't be someone in the police department that's out there soliciting donations,' and I don't want my staff soliciting donations—I don't think it's right.

"So what mechanism do we use so we can fund some of these things that aren't funded in the city budget?" Rojas continued. "I had thrown that idea out to Bill Cunningham, and then he ran with it and set up the foundation."

Rojas also threw his support behind SAPF's largest fund-raiser, a well-attended dinner and movie debut with tickets running $100 apiece and all proceeds going to the foundation. The event featured appearances by Moms' Night Out star/country singer Trace Adkins, but it was staffed largely by Santa Ana Explorer cadets and featured appearances by SAPD's K-9, CSI, SWAT and mounted units—all at no cost to the SAPF. Rojas says the participation by the units was in line with their participation with other nonprofits.

While the event went well, the requirement to use SAPF to raise funds forced some officers to change their plans. "A few officers were organizing a 5k to raise funds for gas and uniforms for the Baker-to-Vegas run," says a police source. (The Baker to Vegas Race is an annual 120-mile relay run by more than 200 California law-enforcement agencies; Santa Ana regularly fields a team that finishes in the top five.) "That's when the chief steps in and says they have to use [Cunningham] for any fund-raising efforts. Cunningham said he wasn't going to do any advertising or anything but was going to keep 60 percent of the money. The officers ended up canceling the fund-raiser."

Not even Rojas is completely happy with the foundation. "[It's] not a very successful nonprofit at the end of the day," he says. "From my standpoint, we would like to see a lot more grants than what we're getting now."

In an interview with the Weekly, Cunningham declined to speak about his SAPF compensation. But according to his employment contract, in the past five years, he has earned $217,125 at the rate of $45 per hour, so much money that the foundation is having trouble paying him. It currently owes him $119,965—$100,000 of which Cunningham has agreed to waive if it were spent on an insurance-type policy with a listed beneficiary of the William and Holly Cunningham Family Trust, according to the contract. He also receives a per diem of $500 per month for business expenses, including travel, training and membership dues.

1
 
2
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
15 comments
Whophantom
Whophantom

RIPOFF! T Rex should investigate.

jkruts
jkruts

This isn't the first time I have seen more money taken in than has been paid out by the SAPF.  If nothing wrong is being done, then why decline the interview and let the truth speak for itself? Maybe it has and finally someone is noticing.  

Being a former explorer, seeing the foundation take 75% of the profits for cashing a check and writing a new one, seems horribly self serving if in fact that is what happened.  Clearly the SAPF is not a "non-profit" organization.

damansonfire
damansonfire

I think the feeling of entitlement has bitten Mr. Cunningham. Mr. Cunningham is not doing anything wrong he  just believes getting paid what he is worth. (In his mind.) Non-profits fail when they stop serving the community and serve the directors who feel their compensation is not adequate either because they help found the non-profit and feel its their baby or the director get taken to task like with this article. Citizens start asking questions that need to be answered. It is obvious by the article that something is amiss if board members are questioning the finances and stepping down as the article so states.....  "Between 2011 and 2012, three members of the organization's board voiced their concerns over the foundation's finances, then left their seats. According to a Weeklysource, three more left at the end of 2013."

  I could feel the sense of disappointment and anger on easily influenced young police explorers.   If the explorers raise about $10,000 and receive only $2,500, unless the figures are incorrect. In my opinion this is not right.  These explorers are our future policemen, quite frankly it does not add up. Contracts are made to uphold but can also be broken by mutual accord. It's time to do the right thing.

damansonfire
damansonfire

I think the feeling of entitlement has bitten Mr. Cunningham. Mr. Cunningham is not doing anything wrong he  just believes getting paid what he is worth. (In his mind.) Non-profits fail when they stop serving the community and serve the directors who feel their compensation is not adequate either because they help found the non-profit and feel its their baby or the director get taken to task like with this article. Citizens start asking questions that need to be answered. It is obvious by the article that something is amiss if board members are questioning the finances and stepping down as the article so states.....  "Between 2011 and 2012, three members of the organization's board voiced their concerns over the foundation's finances, then left their seats. According to a Weeklysource, three more left at the end of 2013."   I could feel the sense of disappointment and anger on easily influenced young police explorers.   If the explorers raise about $10,000 and receive only $2,500, unless the figures are incorrect. In my opinion this is not right.  These explorers are our future policemen, quite frankly it does not add up. Contracts are made to uphold but can also be broken by mutual accord. It's time to do the right thing.

18usc241
18usc241 topcommenter

"Normally, overhead of more than 10 percent or 20 percent is considered excessive; SAPF's 67 percent is off the charts"

"the foundation was the only organization cleared to receive funds on behalf of the SAPD"

So the complete disrespect and violation of the trust of OC cops and deputies by leadership begins at the Explorer level? Again, me no surprise-o. If a kid of mine ever told me that they wanted to become an OC cop/deputy I would have them join the French foreign legion.

revolor
revolor

Boy... this whole thing stinks of high heaven... I hope somebody in the Grand Jury reads this article and figures out a way to bring this topic for review.

sweetliberty17761776
sweetliberty17761776

NOW they know what its like to vote for the Dems


you earn it 


we tell you what and how to spend it


as Obams said:


there is nothing wrong with redistribution of your wealth

BobLoblawsLawBlog
BobLoblawsLawBlog

Sounds as if those Explorer Scouts are getting a little training early.

meheecan-cris-doner
meheecan-cris-doner

Cunningham is in the right business, con los puerquitos... oink oink

SCAMARTIST
SCAMARTIST

So let's see Jubal Sr.  $217,125. / $45.00 per hour = 4,825 hours / 8 hours per day = 603 DAYS!


Sounds better than a Prop 10 contract to me.

spencerj05
spencerj05

@sweetliberty17761776  You're mentally ill, please seek therapy.


What does the President have to do with crooked cops in highly Republican Orange County?


Do you check under your bed for Obama before you go to sleep at night?

 
Anaheim Concert Tickets
Loading...