Sheriff Donald F Eslinger
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When is a "Donation" Not a "Donation"?

This article begins where the investigation into the Oviedo High School Touch Down Club, Inc. ended. As a result of that investigation it was revealed that this not for profit corporation had been operating illegally for over 10 years which resulted in the officers closing shop and transferring the balance of their Citizen’s Bank of Oviedo Account into the account for yet another not for profit corporation opened under the name of "The Oviedo High School Athletic Booster Club, Inc." (1) (Booster Club Division of Corporation Sheet) since 1971.

Having identified that, Mr. Robert Thrift Jr. was the President of the Booster Club, contact was made with Mr. Thrift on 9/26/2011 at which time Mr. Thrift confirmed that funds had been donated to the Booster Club from the OHS Touchdown Club. It would later be revealed by Mr. Robert Lundquist, principal of Oviedo High School, that the exact amount was $788.10. (2)(Email 10/2/2011) Why Mr. Lundquist would have access to this financial information for this private non-profit presents yet another problem and concerns.

Due to the unprofessional attitude and response by the Corporate Officers of the OHS Touchdown Club and how they had been permitted to operate for 10 years illegally, a basic check was started as to the issue that the Booster Club was not violating the same Florida State Statues covering charitable organizations. Utilizing the online service provided by the Florida Department of Agriculture Consumer Affairs, it was revealed that the Oviedo High School Athletic Booster Club, Inc. was also not registered with the Department of Agriculture as a charitable organization. This organization would later be issued License number CH35537 on 11/29/2011. (3)(CCH info)

A check was conducted which revealed that the OHS Athletic Booster Club had filed their IRS Form 990-EZ since 2003. This information was verified by contacting the National Center for Charitable Statistics (4)

On October 2, 2011 SeminoleWatch.com was provided with a copy of an e-mail concerning the Booster club of one parents attempt to renew their membership as a member of the Booster Club and their attempt to look into the financial records in detail for this nonprofit corporation which was operating within Oviedo High School. A concern was also expressed regarding monies donated to the Booster Club by various athletic programs which may have been used to purchase the artificial football field at Oviedo High School.

No longer having a child attend OHS, I was extremely ignorant (lack of knowledge) on the entire subject. Now the concept of parents forming a nonprofit in order to help the kids and various sporting programs sounded like a great idea. To be told that this Booster Club had donated an artificial football field at a cost of around $600,000.00 seemed to be a great accomplishment not to mention gesture of charity. As with most rumors; this rumor would turn out not exactly as first presented.

So how is it that SeminoleWatch.com became interested in this story? Since our mission is to expose government corruption within Seminole County Florida, at first glance it would appear that a nonprofit, not officially connected with the Seminole County Public School system, did not seem to meet that standard.

What aroused our interest is the connection between this nonprofit and Oviedo High School and the direct connection to Principal Robert Lundquist. Having been advised that a parent of a child who was participating in an athletic program at OHS had been denied to renew their membership into the Booster Club, we wanted to know why. After all, the parent had not committed a crime, was not a danger or threat to the children and it appeared as if the reason for the denials was due to requesting more details concerning the finances of the Booster Club. (5)(Denial letter) This parent was also threatened with a law suit when she complained to Principal Lundquist about being denied a membership by this Booster Club as the denial had no grounds and appeared as if it was more of a personal nature for Mr. Thrift.(16)(17)

Having been advised by Robert Lundquist on 10/19/11 that; "The Oviedo High School Athletic Booster Club procured a loan from the Citizens Bank of Oviedo to purchase the artificial turf football field." It was revealed that in fact the Booster Club had not donated an artificial turf football field that the Booster Club had paid for and owned but had donated a debt. After months of emails and public record inspections, the details of how the unsecured loan for the artificial turf was obtained as well as the monthly payments, interest payments to Citizens Bank of Oviedo and a $206,000.00 "Gentlemen’s Agreement" with BE&K Building Group, was revealed.

So this is how the $556,000.00 field was "donated" by the Booster Club. (6)(2-15-12 email from Robert Lundquist) The "unsecured loan" in the amount of $300,000.00 at 7% fixed rate was obtained from Citizens Bank of Oviedo on June 16, 2010. The Terms of the loan dictated Quarterly payments in the amount of $20,000.00 to begin on September 16, 2010. The borrower was identified as the "Oviedo High School Athletic Booster Club, Inc." and signed by the President, Mark Dwyer, V.P. Robert Thrift and Treasurer Chantal D. Thrift. (7)(Promissory Note)

Now given the economic condition in 2010, I am grateful that I closed my account at Citizens Bank of Oviedo. An unsecured loan for an artificial turf field on the property of a third party? No thank you.

The down payment of $48,000.00 was donated by an unidentified 75 community and Booster Club supporters. Should the Booster Club provide the names and amounts of donations to SeminoleWatch.com, we will provide that information in a later update. Since BE&K Building Group was the contractor for the $65,000,000.00 renovations to OHS, BE&K did not require a down payment on the $206,000.00 site work needed to install the artificial football turf, purchased from Pro Grass. So let’s look at how much these acts of charity cost the Booster Club, the athletic programs at OHS and the parents, students and people who pay gate tickets. The monthly interest payments to Citizens Bank of Oviedo which have been paid out of the “1101 Athletic General Accounts, managed by Robert Lundquist”. (8)(1101 account)

The monthly $9,500.00 payments to the BE&K Building Group is being paid of the gate receipts account #1127. (9)(1127 account) A vendor history from 7/1/2010 through 2/8/2010 detailed that $138,423.20 had been paid to the OHS Athletic Boosters out of the various accounts. (11)

Then there are the $20,000.00 quarterly payments on the promissory note paid to Citizens Bank of Oviedo. We believe that the Booster Club has been making those payments but cannot confirm this as the Booster Club will not allow us to see their bank statements.

In the email from Mr. Lundquist dated 2/15/2012, he verifies that as of that date $68,601.04 had been "donated" from football, boys and girls soccer, boys and girls lacrosse and track. (6)

Once again there is that word "donated". Now put yourself in the position of a teacher/coach who receives an email from the Athletic Director, Wes Allen, who advises you…"Mr. Lundquist has asked me to approach you for a donation to the turf fund. We are asking for $2,000.00. Your total as of 8/19/10 is $4,271.42. He and I feel that a donation of that amount would not hinder your program. Just to let you know we are asking this of ALL sports with a large account balance. Please respond." (12) This email was sent to a teacher/volleyball coach. Does the girls Volleyball team use the artificial football turf?

Now, in my opinion when your boss says he knows how much money your kids have earned, saved, begged for and that he has decided how much you need, it is not a request for a donation. It is a hint!! After all the kids on your team, do not need all that money.

What I failed to mention is that this lengthy email from Robert Lundquist is his reply to my email request which I directed to the President of the Booster Club, Robert Thrift. (13)(Dated 2-13-2012) In my request to President Thrift, I asked to inspect the financial records of his not for profit to include the check register for all contributions received and expenditures. To date, President Thrift has refused to respond to this request or to return my numerous phone calls.

On 3/1/2012 I requested the assistance of Mr. Lundquist in order to view and examine the financial records of the Booster Club. (14) As of this date Mr. Thrift has failed to comply with any request. I am sure that a lot of people find nothing wrong in this type of "donation" and how all of this money is being taken from the various sports programs in order to pay off the debt of this not for profit corporation.

Why is the Booster Club begging for members, but yet when a parent whose child is in several sports program is denied a membership because they are asking "where is the money going"? It has been requested that the Seminole County School Board conduct their own investigation into these various clubs that are being operated out of OHS. (18) They have conducted no such investigation. The employees at OHS have been prior key officers in the OHS Touchdown Club such as Wes Allen, Greg Register, Cheryl Long and Linda Lougee. These same players have are involved in gathering funds for the Booster Club.

Ask the questions as to why the OHS Touchdown Club shut down after we asked where their money was going and why for ten years were they not compliant with the Department of Agriculture and why haven’t they shown any exemptions for paying taxes?

Why was the Booster Club not compliant with the Department of Agriculture? All information into forming a nonprofit is provided in their application packet and can be easily found on line. It is a felony in the State of Florida to not be compliant with the Department of Agriculture; ignorance is not an excuse for breaking the law.

As for me, I am kind of old fashioned. I have this crazy idea that if you want to "donate" something then the first thing that you have to do is OWN the thing that you intend to donate. It is like me purchasing a car, taking out a loan on the car and giving it to a church. Did I really donate anything or what? So now with this knowledge the reader has the facts and each of you decide if you want to keep paying off the debt of this Booster Club.

Maybe one of you will be able to look at the financial records of the Booster club to see what other "donations" have been made. All parents should want to know how their money for their sport is being spent. There are sporting programs donating to the turf field that do not use the field. We have not been able to prove or not prove that tax payer’ dollars are not being used in paying off this extremely large debt. Another parent has been out there asking Mr. Lundquist for help and he remains silent. Why does Principal Lundquist donate profits from almost every function that goes on at OHS donated to that football field? Ask where all the O'Glow money went and the Breast Cancer awareness fundraiser, where did those funds go?

It would be one thing if the Booster Club worked to come up with the over $600,000.00 in donations for OHS to have a fake turf field first, then pay for the field in one lump sum. To be totally factual, there have been so many figures thrown out there, it is hard to say exactly how much this field has cost if we can’t get access to the Booster Club records. If the fake turf didn’t exist, where else can that money have been better served for our athletic kids.

In the midst of the biggest budget crisis in Seminole County School history, in the midst of the Seminole County School Board trying to close schools, can’t give teachers raises and parents having their kids work car washes and stand in front of grocery stores begging for donations, does OHS really need an artificial turf field? Please feel free to call and ask Rob Thrift for his financial statements, bank statements anything that can show where the money has gone. Call Cheryl Long who was the treasurer and/or Linda Lougee the secretary or the current head football coach Wes Allen and ask for the last five years of the OHS Touchdown financial records, where did all that money go to? They won’t respond to our request. Is it feasible for Principal Lundquist to be spending $800.00 on Panera Bread for two meetings with his coaches? How do you explain that to the kids, your kids, who are out there in the summer heat trying to raise money for their sport as they are told they have to? If there is nothing to hide, the financial statements of these nonprofits should be available for anyone to see, not the spreadsheets they pass around when asked.

OHS has a wonderful website, why isn’t information posted on there about where the donations are coming from, exactly? If I were a parent that had a child involved in sports at OHS, now that you have this information, I would be calling and wanting to know. Why do the kids have to pay for that fake football field? Since they are, why isn’t that information being posted for all to see and not just lump sum figures? One parent has been targeted, but if numerous parents, teachers and students start asking, they can’t ignore everyone.

Again, we have asked for help from the Seminole County School Board to help solve these issues, after all, these nonprofits have been operating out of their school for years. In fact, emails from Walt Griffin suggest that there is no documentation where any permission was ever given to Mr. Lundquist to have artificial turf to begin with. Should official records be located which document that the School Board granted such permission, those documents will be provided in a follow up story. How would Citizen’s Bank repossess a field from a property that does not belong to them or the Booster Club Board members who signed for the loan?

Please feel free to email INTEGRITY@seminolewatch.com with any of your questions or concerns. This story is still a work in progress, our goal is to inform parents, teachers, staff, students, taxpayers and anyone who pays to go to any OHS football games or any other sporting event at OHS. You have the right to know how your hard earned dollars are being spent and to ensure that your "donations" are going to where you intended for them to go.

INCLUDED DOCUMENTS

  1. Florida Division of Corporations
  2. Email October 7, 2011
  3. Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
  4. National Center for Charitable Statistics
  5. Membership denial letter
  6. Email 2/15/2012 from Robert Lundquist
  7. Promissory Note dated 6-16-2010
  8. Athletic General Account #1101
  9. Gate Account #1127
  10. Vendor History OHS Athletic Boosters
  11. Oviedo High School Trial Balance Report
  12. Email August 19, 2010 Field Donation
  13. Email 2/13/2012 to Robert Thrift cc: Robert Lundquist
  14. Email 3/1/2012 To: Robert Lundquist cc: Bill Vogel
  15. Seminole Chronicle article By: Jessica J. Saggio January 11, 2012
  16. Rob Thrift threatening to sue a parent, Liz McCausland P.A., Novemeber 23, 2011
  17. Response to threatening letter from Liz McCausland P.A. Representing Booster Club & Robert Thrift, December 5, 2011
  18. Request for investigation, October 27, 2011