Local lawyer runs questionable charity
June 26, 2009
By KAREN VELIE
A local attorney takes out more than 60 percent of monies donated to a nonprofit he oversees before sending the remaining monies to a self declared cleric alleged to have defrauded donors from throughout the world, according to tax documents and news sources.
Founded in 2001 by San Luis Obispo attorney Eric Parkinson, VeAhavta’s stated mission is to “lovingly nurture the physical, emotional and spiritual well being of orphans and destitute elders in a secure home.” Donations allegedly support the day to day operations of the Grace Care Center, an orphanage and home for seniors.
Parkinson’s affiliation with Sellathurai Jeyanesan (also known as Salvaduri in a handful of recent positive news stories and a recent book written by a program volunteer) prompted him to found the nonprofit organization with Jeyanesan serving as his overseas agent. Jayanesan, listed on the group’s website as a reverend with a doctorate, is touted in Sri Lanka news articles as a “fake priest” with a “bogus doctorate.”
According to the Sri Lanka Guardian, Jeyanesan has pocketed millions of dollars donated by a lengthy list of international philanthropists. Jeyanesan is accused of taking advantage of the horrendous circumstances in Sri Lanka through schemes he has employed for his own self enrichment.
“Even more worrying is Father Jeyanesan’s utterly corrupt stewardship of public funds,” the Sri Lanka Guardian says. “The CACM (Church of the American Ceylon Mission) is a mere frontage to this man’s ravenous and insatiable addiction to raise funds for his own private show and needs.”
Jeyanesan’s focuses his fund raising schemes primarily at Israelis, Americans, Australians, and Europeans under the guise that their donations will go to help the “orphans, widows, and needy people” of Sri, according to the Sri Lanka Guardian.
Authorities in Sri Lanka issued an arrest warrant for Jeyanesan last year for failing on three separate occasions to appear in court. Within weeks, a principal that worked at a school affiliated with Jeyanesan was found guilty of three counts of perjury, according to the Jaffna Diocese of the Church of South India.
Parkinson said he thought the writer of the Sri Lanka Guardian had an ax to grind with Jeyanesan. In addition, he claims members of the Jaffna Diocese were angry over a split with Jeyanesan.
“I know about the allegations,” Parkinson said. “They are not true.”
Jeyanesan turned himself in and was let out on bail. He continues to oversee VeAhavta’s Grace Care Center, according to their website which requests that donations be sent to VeAhavta’s San Luis Obispo office.
More than 60 percent of donations given to the VeAhavta nonprofit are used to pay Parkinson for his work overseeing the Sri Lanka charity from abroad, according to the nonprofit’s 2007 IRS 990 filing.
Watchdog groups rate nonprofits by the amount of funds donated that are used for the agencies’ charitable purposes.
“For every dollar you donate, very good charities will use 80 cents or more towards their charitable purpose, while the rest of your donation pays for fundraising costs, administrative expenses, and management salaries,” according to the Charity Guide web site. “On the other hand, for every dollar donated to a bad charity, as little as 40 cents (or worse) will go towards the charitable purpose. The rest of your donation will pay for a poorly managed or inefficient bureaucracy.”
In 2007, philanthropists donated $218,610 to the nonprofit Parkinson founded, according to the agencys’ tax returns. The charity paid Parkinson – the group’s president, secretary, and director – $136,895 in salary, payroll taxes, and benefits.
An additional $9,000 was used to cover the costs of fundraising and website design, according the group’s 2007 tax return. The group’s 2008 tax return has not yet been filed.
In 2003 and 2004, Parkinson claimed he worked eight hours a week running the nonprofit. In 2006, he increased his hourly work load to 40 per week with an additional charitable duty, working to expand services to the homeless in San Luis Obispo, according to tax returns.
“There was no change in the operation,” Parkinson said in response to a question of why his hours had increased over the past four years. “It just needed more attention because we had grown so much in donations.”
However, the last three years of tax returns show donation levels decreasing while at the same time Parkinson’s salary and hours increased. Parkinson told CalCoastNews he stopped taking a salary in January.
When asked how they were expanding homeless services in San Luis Obispo County, Parkinson said the plans had been dropped though they had made a video about homelessness in 2006.
Numerous local as well as national groups such as the Grover Beach Rotary Club, a Cal Poly sorority, and numerous elementary schools have donated monies to Parkinson’s nonprofit with an understanding they were helping widows, orphans, and the elderly of the war and tsunami ravaged island of Sri Lanka.