UPDATE: Additional allegations surface against local charity
July 1, 2009
By KAREN VELIE
Amidst a flurry of questions about how local attorney Eric Parkinson disperses donations earmarked for the needy, his supporters have changed their stories repeatedly to dispute allegations of misappropriations while a reporter in Sri Lanka voices new allegations.
Last week, CalCoastNews reported that Parkinson took out more than 60 percent of monies donated to the VeAhavta nonprofit, a Sri Lanka orphanage and senior care facility Parkinson manages from San Luis Obispo, before sending the remaining monies to a self-declared cleric alleged to have defrauded donors from throughout the world.
Almost immediately, his supporters began posting claims on CalCoastNews.com that contradict what is on their own website; ironically, the website frequently rebuts its own statements.
For example, both VeAhavta’s website and a recent San Luis Obispo Tribune article claim Parkinson is the president of the organization. Parkinson also told CalCoastNews he was administrating the organization from San Luis Obispo. He said that despite all the allegations of fraudulent behavior, he still had faith in Sellathurai Jeyanesan, who Parkinson claimed was continuing to oversee the day to day operations of the orphanage.
However, a handful of VeAhavta volunteers have posted claims that neither Parkinson nor Jeyanesan are overseeing the organization or the orphanage.
Following the Tsunami in late 2004, reports from the group say that the orphanage was seriously damaged, though no children had been injured because of the government’s early warning systems. In another post on their website, VeAhavta officials claim most of the children were away with relatives when the Tsunami struck.
In a February 26 correction, the website says, “The orphanage was indeed damaged, but the damage was only light to moderate(!!!).”
In addition, different reports provide conflicting information about how much of each donation is used for the group’s charitable purpose and who is receiving the funds in Sri Lanka. While the charity’s website stated in 2005 that between 98 to 99 percent of all donations were wired directly to Jeyanesan within hours of their receipt, volunteers are now alleging that funds have never been processed by Jeyanesan, who they now claim does not oversee the group’s orphanage and senior care center.
According to VeAhvata’s 2005 tax return, the group sent between $439,000 of its $595,000 (74 percent) in donations to Sri Lanka for the support of 50 to 70 children, approximately 30 seniors, and a few dozen part-time preschoolers.
An MSNBC report appears to cast these reported expenses under a blanket of doubt.
In 2005, Sri Lankan authorities took over the Ruhunu orphanage after allegations surfaced that a San Diego couple operating the facility were alleging unusually high operating expenses. The couple claimed they required $50,000 in donations to operate the facility annually, according to an MSNBC article.
Providing an example of what it costs to run a charity in this war torn country, MSNBC shared the story of a couple from Washington who operate a youth center and medical facility in Sri Lanka. For approximately $11,000 a year, the center serves 500 to 700 people per month.
According to Parkinson and VeAhvata volunteer Lynn Holland, between 30 to 40 U.S. volunteers support the Grace Care Center by providing administrative assistance from abroad and hands on help during visits of usually one week a year at the orphanage.
Last Friday, while the group’s public relations person, James Mitchell, was spending time at the orphanage, he posted numerous responses rebutting a CalCoastNews article.
About an hour after his last post, one that was refuted by numerous bloggers, someone logged in from the same IP address (the same location) using the name “8” and posted pornographic comments such as, “Heh heh heee I wanna pee on her (a reporter’s) pu–y.”
According to California Penal Code 653m, it is a misdemeanor to contact another person using obscene language through electronic devices. If the communication is construed as a true threat, it can be considered a felony.
“Please accept my apology for the uncivilized comments posted on the web site,” Mitchell said in an e-mail. “Although the person who did it clearly acted inappropriately, he did so out of concern for Mr. Parkinson and the Grace Care Center. I have spoken to him, and this will not happen again.”
A June 30 article in the Sri Lankan Watch questions the ethics of Jeyanesan as well as VeAhavta’s volunteers.
“Some fund organizers in the West also see this as an opportunity for holidays for themselves in exotic surroundings and amidst people who would serve them right royally as servile minions and cater to their proclivities and appetites that may even be questionable.
“It is sad, Eric Parkinson, who keeps over 60% of charity donations for himself, was even compared with Mother Therese. What an insult to the Saint of the Destitutes of Calcutta! She never had the types of Father Jeyanesan on her team; everyone one of hers led an extremely frugal life and were totally dedicated to their cause. And every cent of support they received was transparent and went miles,” according to the Sri Lankan Watch.