Community Photos & Videos

Video: Rose F. Kennedy Greenway Conservancy Meeting – May 1, 2012

This video shows the joint meeting of the Rose F. Kennedy Greenway Conservancy Board of Directors and Greenway Leadership Council, held on May 1, 2012 at Atlantic Wharf, 290 Congress Street. Per the agenda, Chair Georgia Murray introduced the meeting and Executive Director Nancy Brennan presented the “Greenway Evolution” and “Milestones of the Public / Private Partnership.” A general financial and operating review was provided along with an update regarding pending legislation and MassDOT deliverables, including a business plan and salary study. Lastly, there were park updates and open discussion.

Slides from the Conservancy’s presentation are available at this link (pdf).

See also this previous post on the meeting with press reports: Greenway Conservancy Considers Its Funding Options

One Reply to “Video: Rose F. Kennedy Greenway Conservancy Meeting – May 1, 2012

  1. I have a few comments:

    Re: Whether public funding was ever part of the plan for the Conservancy’s operations.
    Nancy Brennan chose quotes from the Memo of Agreement with the Mass Turnpike Authority that spoke generally about the “public private partnership,” to indicate that ongoing public Conservancy funding was always part of the long-term plan. However, she omitted the definitive provision in the Memo:
    ” Section VII.
    It is the intent of the Parties that the Conservancy undertake its obligations under this Agreement and the Bylaws without relying on any federal, state or local funding (other than the specific funds committed in this Agreement).”

    State funding for half the Conservancy budget was never contemplated when the Conservancy was being given a total of $10 million in start-up money while they demonstrated their capability to operate solely on private money. Indeed, the Conservancy claimed that they had proven this capability by stating that they had amassed the $20 million endowment that, according to their founding “business model,” would be the basic source of their operating funds. They also created many revenue-producing programs, such as the tribute pavers, event fees, and corporately sponsored programs, which have collected substantial funds. It was only when the state’s start-up funding commitment was ending, and this provision was to take effect, that the Conservancy decided to change their business model. They got a law passed that terminated all the provisions of the Memo of Agreement, gave them a land lease for the parkland, and obligated the state to fund half their budget.

    Re: Transparency:
    The Conservancy does hold public meetings, like this one, but, unlike bodies subject to the Open Meeting Law, they also have private meetings whenever they they want to. Indeed, before this public meeting, the group held a private meeting in another room. The Conservancy called it an “executive session.” But public bodies are required to take minutes even at executive sessions and publicize them once any issues requiring confidentiality are resolved. The contents of the Conservancy’s “executive sessions” are never disclosed, so they can do all their business in secret.

    The Guidestar “seal for transparency” mentioned at the meeting is given to all non-profits that post certain basic information ( . Guidestar does not perform any independent investigation of transparency and doesn’t rate the non-profit’s transparency policies or practices. Charity Navigator has given no rating for the Conservancy, as Nancy Brennan points out, since they don’t yet have five years of experience. This corrects the mis-statement made by Chairperson Georgia Murray at the public Feb 7, 2012 meeting that “Charity Navigator, a watchdog group that looks at transparency,” has given the Conservancy a “very good rating.”

    In any case, these organizations address the transparency requirements for private non-profits. The Conservancy may be transparent enough for a 501c3. But an organization that spends public money, and controls public open space, should be as transparent as a government agency, and this is the requirement that has now been established as a pre-condition for extension of the state lease. It appears, however, that the Conservancy would rather give up the public money than give up their financial information.

    Re: Whether the half-million-dollar maintenance contract was competitively bid, a key question in the issue of the Conservancy’s efficient use of public funding:
    The Conservancy stated at the meeting that the contract was competitively bid, which is not what I had been given to understand before. I requested a breakdown of labor rates and costs for individual tasks. Steve Anderson acknowledged, at this meeting, that I cannot get from the Conservancy the detailed information that would be available if it were a publicly bid contract. I have requested from the Conservancy the Request for Proposal issued for the bid, the announcement of the RFP and where it was posted, the date of the bidder question-and-answer meeting, and the other bids that came in. I have not yet received a response.

    Re: whether the Conservancy is as transparent as it can be or should be
    I recently requested the bank statements of the Conservancy, to allow review, at check-book level detail, of the Conservancy’s expenditures to see where every dollar has gone. Nancy Brennan replied, as she always does, that they are a 501c3, and as such, exempt from the Public Record Law, and therefore they will not disclose more than they have posted. The posted documents are highly aggregated and do not show who received the money that has been spent.
    This question always elicits an answer from the Conservancy defending their need to protect certain donor identities and to keep fund-raising strategies secret. However, these protests are irrelevant to requests for expenditure information and identified-donor information. I am wondering exactly what part of the 501c3 regulations they are citing. They may be exempt from the obligations of the Public Record Law, but they are free, I believe, to disclose information voluntarily.
    I will request from the Conservancy the legal language that forbids them to disclose their records on expenditures and everything else except donors who have requested anonymity.

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