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Questions Raised Over How Police Officer Charity Dollars Were Spent

April 06, 2017 06:34 AM

Complaints have been filed with the Minnesota Attorney General's office over how donations to a non-profit have been handled. 

The group in question is the Mendota Heights Police Officer's Benevolent Association.  

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It was formed by three officers: Mike Shepard, Bobby Lambert and John Larrive. They worked alongside Officer Scott Patrick, who was killed in the line of duty in July of 2014.

RELATED: Mendota Heights Police Officer Suspended for Third Time

The group registered with the Secretary of State in February of 2015 and became a registered 501c3 a month later on March 5, 2015.  

But in a letter soliciting donations, the group said its "work began long before that."

The group sold stickers, decals and t-shirts, along with holding several public events. 

Larrive is the treasurer of the organization.

He was asked what he would say to donors who wonder if the money donated in those months was tax deductible. 

"That money was put into the criminal apprehension fund because it was a 501c3," he said. "And then when we established the money, it was transferred from them to us."

It's concern over accountability of the dollars raised that has bothered some donors enough to file consumer complaints.

"I don't know who had oversight of the money, where it was being spent," said a donor who did not want to be identified. "But it didn't appear to be used for what (the) publicly-stated purpose was."

Another donor who attended multiple fundraisers said: "I saw the money being used to pay for trips, airline tickets, booze, food and things like that."

MHPOBA records filed with the state - 990 forms - show the group raised $77,000 for charitable and educational purposes.

Another letter from the organization announced that was more money than expected and would cover all travel expenses for the Patrick family, as well as officers who worked with him, to travel from Mendota Heights to Washington D.C. to observe Patrick's name being engraved on the National Wall alongside other officers killed in the line of duty.  

However, the group later revealed Sun Country covered the flight costs for the Patrick family.  

The head of MHPOBA, Mike Shepard, said during a phone call:

"The first year the group screwed things up and didn't file with the Attorney General as required by law. They didn't know what they were doing."  

The group has since hired an attorney and accountant.

Larrive said some of the money raised paid for highway signs to be posted on Dodd Road, where Patrick was killed.  

One scholarship was given to a high school student in 2016. Nicole Gaphart was part of the Explorer Program for youth interested in pursuing a career in law enforcement. That scholarship was $500.  

A second scholarship worth $1,000 will be awarded April 29 at the Explorer's Program conference in Rochester.  

Over the years, there has been talk of building a permanent memorial in town, along with a picnic area at Mendakota Park. Neither of which has happened.

Everything is on hold right now given the turmoil surrounding two officers who are part of the organization - Shepard and Lambert.  

Shepard has been suspended from the force and Lambert has been terminated. Larrive is the only remaining officer.

Credits

Beth McDonough

Copyright 2017 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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