Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Mural Group Lacks State Registration Warnings, Fines Issued for Seeking Donations While Not on Pa. List

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Mural Group Lacks State Registration Warnings, Fines Issued for Seeking Donations While Not on Pa. List

Article excerpt

Since incorporating in 2008, the MLK Community Mural Project has solicited and received charitable donations without being registered with the state as a charitable organization.

Hundreds of vibrant, joyous and colorful murals, in Pittsburgh and other cities, have been painted in MLK's collaborations with artists, which usually bring disadvantaged young people into the mix and pay them for their contributions to the artwork.

At issue is MLK's solicitation of contributions, said Wanda Murren, press secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of State. Since 2009, MLK has been warned, sanctioned and fined for soliciting donations without being registered with the Bureau of Charitable Organizations.

Kyle Holbrook, executive director of the MLK project, said the accounting firm Cameron Professional in the Hill District is preparing the paperwork to get MLK registered with the state. The firm confirmed that.

The secretary of the commonwealth ordered MLK to cease and desist seeking contributions in 2011. In April 2012, according to findings of fact in legal proceedings, MLK solicited charitable donations on its website and again in July of that year.

MLK was sanctioned and fined $1,000 for each of four dates the commonwealth noted solicitations.

In July of this year, the bureau acknowledged in a letter to Mr. Holbrook his payment of an administrative fine but informed him that the financial information that accompanied his registration form was for the fiscal year ending 2013.

The letter states: "The Bureau is unable to process your registration without more recent financial information," which should have included "a financial report for the immediately preceding fiscal year and a copy of the last IRS form 990."

Mr. Holbrook said MLK normally is contracted for a mural by an organization or property owner whose share of the cost is about half. He said MLK's annual budget of about $2 million includes the value of volunteers, in-kind support and donated materials. …

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