Family Ties director says she was never on board
February 16, 2013
By KAREN VELIE, JOSH FRIEDMAN and DANIEL BLACKBURN
(Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series about San Luis Obispo County Homeless Services and the nonprofits managing the program.)
Family Ties, the local nonprofit charged with protecting the financial interests of homeless and indigent people’s assets has a board of directors that does not exist.
One of the three people listed as board members says she is not a member of the board and that she did not know the nonprofit ever was formed.
Jana Hanson, a local physician, was identified on a 2010 IRS 990 tax form as Family Ties’ chief financial officer. But Hanson says she never served.
“It came as quite a surprise that Neisen is filing IRS returns with me as the CFO,” Hanson wrote in an email to CalCoastNews. “I am consulting an attorney to see how this information needs to be corrected in any documents she may have filed.”
Neisen is listed as president and one of the three board members. The third board member, identified by Family Ties as Deborah Jett, has not been located despite sophisticated data base searches. Jett is listed as the vice president of the nonprofit.
Family Ties, owned and operated by Lisa Neisen, acts in association with Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo (CAPSLO) to deal with housing and related issues for the area’s homeless. In that role, Family Ties acts as designated substitute payee for numerous individuals, handling Social Security funds, income and general assistance money for those who ask to utilize CAPSLO’s homeless services.
Hanson said Niesen approached her between 10 and 15 years ago and told her she was planning to start a nonprofit that would help people in need of a guardian who did not qualify to be processed through the county. Niesen also is a full-time San Luis Obispo County employee, serving as chief deputy public guardian and managing finances for the mentally ill and the disabled.
“I did agree to be on her board of directors when she first applied for nonprofit status many years ago, but never received notification of any board meetings, reviewed any financial statements or had any role in the corporation,” Hanson wrote. “In fact, I have not seen Ms. Niesen nor had any communication with her in nearly a decade. I assumed her nonprofit never got off the ground or she found someone else to be on the board.”
Federal laws require that in order to operate as a 501(c)(4) and receive tax exempt status, nonprofits must have at least a three-person board of directors that meets a minimum of once a year, records meeting minutes and maintains other specified public records.
Neisen has not responded to repeated phone calls from reporters.
For years, CAPSLO officials have required homeless clients in need of shelter to provide 50 to 70 percent of their income to Neisen and Family Ties. The funds are supposed to go into an account to be used to get the client into housing.
Family Ties’ organizational statement claims all of its clients have “been deemed unable to manage their funds due to their disability or mental disease,” according clients as “incapable.” Family Ties has failed to name individuals responsible for issuing that particular classification.
Homeless clients and even some case managers have complained for years that money placed in trust by CAPSLO with Family Ties, has been embezzled. Administrators with CAPSLO have not responded to questions about alleged missing funds. CAPSLO officials contend they do not charge the homeless for services and that money saved for clients belongs to clients.