Paso Robles Police officer presides over fraudulent charity

June 3, 2009
Paso Robles Police Sgt. Nicki Woods

Paso Robles Police Sgt. Nicki Woods


State Attorney General Edmond G. Brown filed a lawsuit against the California Organization of Police and Sheriffs (COPS) alleging they engage in “unlawful, unfair, and fraudulent business practices,” on May 29.

Paso Robles Police officer Nicki Woods currently holds the position of board president of that agency. The state complaint lists 13 causes of action that include allegations that the Civic Development Group (CDG), the telemarketing firm COPS contracts with, repeatedly deceived donors.

“Donors were led to believe that 100 percent of their donation would benefit COPS, when in reality, CDG received 85 percent of each donation and COPS retained less than 15 percent,” says the state’s complaint which quotes directly from the telemarketers’ prepared scripts.

The state claims the group conspired to defraud donors, violated federal laws regarding deceptive and abusive telemarketing practices, and committed registration and reporting fraud.

COPS solicitors told donors a portion of each contribution would be used to assist at-risk children. In 2006, no COPS funds were used to help children. Of the $11.4 million in donations received in 2007, only $500 went to help children.

During 2005 and 2006, animal lovers donated 18 million to COPS solicitors, after hearing a pitch that the funds would be used to provide veterinary care for service animals injured in the line of duty. Of those donations, less than $6,000 went to canine care. In 2007, the group provided no funds to assist canine officers.

The group’s 2006 IRS 990 Form states that more than $1.5 million was spent on directors, officers, and key employee pay. On the same form, in an area the charity is required to list all officers, directors, and key employees regardless if paid or not, COPS claims $150,925 for the group’s Executive Director, Monty Holden.

CDG officials and COPS board members “were responsible to ensure that COPS engaged in fair, truthful, and lawful solicitation and were prohibited from engaging in deceptive and misleading solicitation practices,” the state’s claim says. “Because defendants engaged in gross abuse of authority or discretion in their management of COPS, and because they breached a charitable trust, they should be permanently removed from COPS’ board and barred from re-election.”

In 1987, Woods began her career with the Paso Police Department as a patrol officer and eventually made sergeant. The department awarded her the Paso Robles Police Department Distinguished Service Award in both 1995 and 1997, according to the COPS web site. She has been on the COPS board of directors since 1997.

Paso Robles Chief of Police Lisa Solomon has also served on the COPS board of directors.

COPS is a highly political organization which in the past has endorsed numerous candidates. The group is currently taking heat for false allegations that former Gov. Gray Davis illegally accepted campaign contributions, according to FOX News.

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Member Opinions:

By: NorthCountyGuy on 6/19/09

Hello is anybody home???? According to the following press releases, this crackdown on local government-run fraudulent charities is nationwide, not just California. There is a REAL WORLD existing outside of the perfect vacuum of Cal-Poly and SLO County. Get it????


As part of a nationwide crackdown on fraudulent charities, Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. is filing today eight lawsuits against 53 individuals, 17 telemarketers and 12 charities that “shamelessly exploited” people’s generosity and squandered millions of dollars of donations intended to help police, firefighters and veterans.


FTC, attorneys general crack down on fraudulent charities — just in time for Memorial Day appeals

by Nirvi Shah / McClatchy Newspapers

Wednesday May 20, 2009, 10:29 PM

By: BeenThereDoneThat on 6/8/09

Dear RIGHTOUS INDIGNATION, I can’t speak for others but as for myself yes I read it. I don’t see anywhere in the article where the reporter said that anybody in SLO was involved. She said that the officer from Paso Robles is in charge of the organzation presently accused.

Did you read that?

You yourself said and I quote, “Did it allege wrong doing? YES! Has any of it been proven? NO!”

So you agree that yes wrong doing has been alleged. Proven of course not. The article states that suit is being brought. That usually happens in cases of fraud etc. unless I missed something.

We gather evidence and then see if we can proceed with a case.

So I think that maybe you are a little off on this and maybe you should go back and reread.

Maybe you should go after Jerry Brown. He is the one bringing the suit. Everyone here that I have read seems to be commenting on what has been presented to them.

By: Inquiry on 6/8/09

WOW! What righteous indignation! Did anyone, including the reporter, actually read the suit? Not ONE local COPS group was named as a defendant. Not ONE San Luis Obispo County police officer or deputy sheriff was named as a defendant. Did it allege wrong doing? YES! Has any of it been proven? NO!

WOW! What RIGHTEOUS indignation!

Remember: those who point a finger at someone else have three pointing at themselves.

By: hotdog on 6/7/09

I wonder how much city time this officer and the chief have spent defrauding people. Is the Council looking into that aspect? We want our tax money to go to these employees doing the jobs they are hired for, nothing else.

By: getting-old on 6/7/09

Folks we can dance around this all we want but this is wrong. It’s collecting money thru fraud. The people that donate do so feeling they can trust the police. I checked out there web site I see Paso has been well represented over the years. Those involved knew what was going on and looked the other way or profited?

First our chief tried to extort 30k out of the car show and ran them off at a big cost to the city. Next we have a questionable bankruptcy. Now we have this crap!!

How come our city leaders will not address these issues. I’m worried about what we don’t know about whats going and costing us or where our money is going. This is not what I except from my tax money

I for one will never again donate to anyone tied to police and I need to give money away each year. If you don’t think this affects how our police dept. is run wrong again.

Thanks again Cal Coast I have a donation coming your way

Time to clean up our Police Dept.

By: rogerfreberg on 6/6/09

hmmm… you will never catch me arguing against collective bargaining. This is a serious check in the balance between meeting the goals of employees and their employing organization.

However, many organizations in San Luis Obispo county often fly fast and loose with what is required legally or ethically… and sometimes, if someone is watching, they get ‘caught.’ Obviously greater oversight is needed .. but we have seen a lot of resistance to Civilian Review Boards, which is unfortunate. It might be easier to put people on the boards who can guide them from questionable decisions… clearly, those folks are not in place now.

By the way, my favorite bastion of truth, Cal Poly has stepped in it once again… but was smart enough to regroup… we’ll see if they are smart enough to walk away altogether.

Check this out:

All of these things are preventable if people realize the difference between what they want to do… and what they should or can do.

Roger Freberg

By: beforeyoufreakout on 6/6/09

Slow your role people. Let me explain something to you. Small local police unions form for a couple of reasons. They bagain with local governments for pay and benefits, they support officers during internal affairs investigations and give money to community organizations. These unions need to raise money to support these causes. A lot of the money that the unions donate to community groups comes from officers paychecks. CDG helps them raise additional funds. I agree that CDG should have been watched closer and that unions using them to raise funds share some responsiblity. But lets not say all cops are lying or crooked because of this.

By: Truthbeknown on 6/6/09

Good one, Roger, but I prefer this one:

“Earth has its boundaries, but human stupidity is limitless”

-Gustave Flaubert

By: rogerfreberg on 6/6/09

The thin blue line is easily crossed and as more than one has said…’tempting’ and easily justified.

“One mustn’t look at the abyss, because there is at the bottom an inexpressible charm which attracts us.”

Gustave Flaubert

By: Truthbeknown on 6/6/09

I have received these annoying calls as well, but have never donated. When it comes to cops, there seems to be a thin blue line between honesty and dishonesty.

By: Cindy on 6/6/09

This is the first that I’ve been aware that this was a scam. I actually have donated to them on more than one occasion. I never stuck the sticker on my car because I thought it didn’t seem ethical. Getting a sticker that said I donate to the COPS wasn’t the reason that I had donated. This just infuriates me. Is anyone honest anymore?

By: George on 6/6/09

I agree TP and removed it,the first comment set a nasty tone to this discussion.

By: hotdog on 6/5/09

Well, since we have drifted off topic I’ll join the pack. I will assume Starving Mexican is actually hispanic or has sympathies towards that ethnicity. That give him/her some license to fool around with various words to describe that group, and I take the comment to be a fun nickname rather than a racist slur (a la rushbo). In fact, in my dealings with various people of color (white, black, brown) I find real Mexicans way more honest, flexible and cooperative in many things than domestic people of any shade. Maybe that is what SM was referring to. And maybe it isn’t even a color thing, maybe it is a nationality thing. Those raised in this country, even if not crooked (cops or other) seem to feel some sort of entitlement regardless of their efforts or ability-not so with Mexicans that I have dealt with. So, unless SM disagrees I will take his/her comments to echo my own feelings.

Those who might criticize me for having a bad attitude about our culture-right on, I do. We are becoming illiterate in our own language (look at some of these posts, almost unreadable), we reach for guns whenever upset, we bite the hands that feed us, we react to certain stimuli like a bunch of fools, we often ignore important aspects of life in favor of junk- and many of those around us are crooks who would sell out their mother for a buck.

Just look at the content of this article-our beloved cops are ripping us off in the name of charity. Lovely…

By: ThomasPaine on 6/5/09

“Viva la Beaner”? I don’t know what is worse. That someone actually wrote such drivel. Or that this site allowed it to happen. Twisted

By: IndenturedTaxpayer on 6/5/09

In third-world countries, the police are the only ones with full job security, fat pensions, and a virtual license to shake down others without ill consequence.

Even if it’s a losing tide, GO JERRY!

By: Nameless on 6/4/09

I don’t know why is everu one so harsh about this? They promised you nothing other than a sticker in the window vs. the hard money lenders. I just need to figure out how to to a scam like that and being able to get away on time. Any advice? Oh BTW1 I have a few highwater river bridges for sale in Arizona. It comes with an ocean view proprty.

By: hotdog on 6/4/09

TBK and others who can’t resist beating on Mike Brennler must have some secret agenda. Mike is, in fact, interested in reasonable oversight of police activities and there has never been one substantiated comment about any wrongdoing on his part in or out of public service.

If you disagree with his pension situation or other related issues bring them up to the authorities who created and authorized them. By leaning on him you indicate a prejudice that should be legitimatized or dropped. Why don’t you pick on those who abuse the system and then claim benefits? We all wonder what your attitude is all about.

By: BeenThereDoneThat on 6/4/09

Charity begins at home? What if my relatives are deadbeat white trash?

Just kidding. Good point.

By: Lewy on 6/4/09

Just remember the old adage “Charity Begins at Home” and you won’t get taken too badly.

By: George on 6/4/09

Yes,TBK. but Mr B. has never called me on the phone asking for “donations” and offered a sticker for my car window. This story is about Paso L.E. not Atascadero,

By: Truthbeknown on 6/4/09

By: George on 6/3/09 “Are we not paying L.E.enough already? I mean are they not covered for health insurance, pension,disability. What am I missing here?”

I agree, George! People like Brennler who get a cushy taxpayer provided pension and suck off the government teet for life sicken me.

By: mccdave on 6/4/09

“…animal lovers donated 18 million to COPS solicitors, using a pitch that the funds would be used to provide veterinary care for service animals…”

This should probably read, “after hearing a pitch saying that the funds.”

The AG should investigate whether police response time to non-donors differed from donors. I haven’t been too impressed with any of the local police departments in the 21 years I’ve lived here.

By: skyler on 6/3/09

Just look at lenthal’s donations for Supervisor! Some 30,000 came from Santa Margarita ranch owners, contractors, friends, and business associates greasing their proposal. It worked for an illegal appeal but now he’s out! No more of that crooked nonsense!

It back fired on him and the voters remember what he did. You want another crooked puppet for Sheriff?

No thanks!

By: BeenThereDoneThat on 6/3/09

Newsweek magazine did a fine article back in the late 80’s or early 90’s talking about cops and crooks.

The mind set of both is very close. Hence why they say there is a fine line between cops and criminals.

Also why so many cops wind up going on the take. Oh and before anyone trys to beat me over the head that not all cops are crooked, I agree but there is a lot.

By: JorgeEstrada on 6/3/09

I’m confused!!! When I was a kid the Cops and Robbers were not batting the same team or was it not batting for a different team? Too confusing….

By: Elvis on 6/3/09

Many folks are of the opinion that COPS has been involved in deceptive — if not illegal — fund raising for years. Congrats to the State Attorney General for taking this group on!

By: George on 6/3/09

Are we not paying L.E.enough already? I mean are they not covered for health insurance, pension,disability. What am I missing here?

By: slo_native on 6/3/09

I have had this same conversation in SLO. I actually followed up on the solicitors phone call by contacting the San Luis Police Dept where I was told that the 15% that they get from the telemarketing group (which at the time was California-West) was better than nothing. I was very disappointed with that kind of attitude.

By: BeenThereDoneThat on 6/3/09

So does C.O.P.S. stand for Crooked Ol Police Service??

By: BeenThereDoneThat on 6/3/09

This group of assholes has called me many of times over the years. I always ask them (as other solicitors) to send me their information in the mail and I will look at it to see what the breakdown is and then decide if I want to contribute.

Guess what? They never want to send (information) because it is expensive, this reason, that reason. So hence I have never given money because I thought it was questionable.

Asking for information to be sent was something I read about years ago. That way you lesson the odds of fraud things like this.