On November 2, the Dinelli blog article entitled “District 6 City Councilor Candidate Nichole Roger’s Holds Herself Out As Business And Financial Consultant; Failed To Timely File Required Legal Documents For Her Charitable Nonprofit; Failed To Make Full Accounting As To Where Funds Raised Has Gone; Rogers Should Release Tax Returns; Will Rogers Seek City Funding For Her Non-Profit If Elected City Councilor And Lobby New Mexico Legislature For It?” was publish at www.PeteDinelli.com. A link to read the full Dinelli blog article is in the postscript below.
On November 4, the Albuquerque Journal published a story on line entitled “District 6 Candidate Nichole Rogers Nonprofit raised money despite delinquent submissions with AG’s Office, Secretary of State and IRS”. The Journal article was written by its Staff Reporter Aliana Mencinger and it repeats information reported in the Dinelli blog article but contains additional details and responses from Nichole Rogers.
Following is the full Albuquerque Journal article with the Journal’s link to its story:
“When District 6 City Council candidate Nichole Rogers first founded the Welstand Foundation, she dreamed of helping children of color around Albuquerque — particularly those aging out of the foster care system.
In February 2021, the foundation posted a photo on Facebook advertising Welstand Village — “a place where kids of color can thrive” — which was expected to open in summer 2021.
According to a 2021 Journal article highlighting the efforts of three local breweries raising money for the nonprofit, those plans were put on hold. She said the fundraiser would buy furniture for the first Welstand group home, and explained that each room would have a different theme: Wakanda from Black Panther, Harry Potter, Star Wars, etc.
But that home didn’t materialize.
Some voters in the district have questioned the operations of the foundation, which has fallen behind on certain paperwork while still soliciting donations. Rogers said the nonprofit has been defunct for several years.
Rogers said the foundation, which was hit hard by the pandemic, effectively disbanded on June 19, 2021. She said she trusted others to help with the paperwork but had never run a foundation before and lacked knowledge on the paperwork — and didn’t check that all forms had been properly submitted.
“It’s just an unfortunate oversight on my part,” Rogers said.
The foundation has been delinquent in its registration submissions with the New Mexico Office of the Attorney General since 2019, when the lack of a signature rendered the submission invalid. Since then, none have been submitted.
This year, the foundation missed a May 15 deadline to submit paperwork with the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office, putting the nonprofit “not in good standing.” After speaking with the Journal, Rogers said she submitted paperwork with the office and is deciding whether to restart the nonprofit, which is now again in good standing.
In 2022, the Internal Revenue Service automatically revoked the foundation’s tax-exempt status. Rogers said the wrong forms were submitted to the IRS.
“I thought we had closed everything out,” Rogers said. “When you brought this up, and we looked up everything and saw that the paperwork wasn’t processed, actually now I have to decide, like, ‘Wow, maybe I can continue with my passion work.’ … So this has actually been a blessing in disguise.”
She said she’s working to get all the paperwork up to date, including submissions with the IRS and the NM Attorney General’s office, which she was unaware was required.
Posts on the Welstand Foundation Facebook page, which has since been deleted, showed the foundation was still soliciting donations in 2022. In early 2022, the page showed that several local breweries, which had raised money for the Welstand Foundation the previous year, contributed a portion of their sales to the foundation for Black History Month. Marble Brewery posted it had raised $3,864 for the foundation.
Rogers said when the breweries reached out this year, she told them the foundation wouldn’t be a good fit since it was no longer active.
In November 2022, the foundation’s page added a photo in asking for donations to “help a child in need” for Giving Tuesday, a donation movement that occurs the Tuesday after Thanksgiving.
Rogers said the foundation received no donations from that fundraiser; she added that all money raised after 2021 went to covering the costs of the foundation. Some of the foundation’s projects included outreach to groups typically undercounted in the Census and bringing food boxes to insecure families during the pandemic.
Two years earlier, in 2020, City Council voted to send $1 million in funding reallocated to COVID-19 needs to several organizations, including Rogers’. The foundation received $15,000.
“All of the money went to those projects,” Rogers said. “There was no leftover funding at all, from any of our projects. We had no paid employees, there were no expenses other than WiFi. It was a foundation of one person: me.”
When asked if the solicitation of donations was appropriate for an organization with missing registrations, the NM AG’s office responded, “Thank you for making us aware of the solicitation of donations. We are looking into this issue.”
“Further, the statute allows our office to promulgate rules surrounding charities and the charitable solicitations act — we are hiring a charities attorney who will be tasked with this effort,” an emailed statement from the office read. “In general this statute has not been widely enforced, however Attorney General (Raul) Torrez plans to engage in a more vigorous process regarding charities who are violating the act.”
Rogers, a business consultant and financial adviser, said she didn’t think the foundation fizzling out should disqualify her from seeking a City Council seat. Rather, she said, it was a learning experience.
“You want an expert who has lived experience with these issues, not someone who’s lived a privileged life,” Rogers said. “I am a person who has had successes and has had failures. But I really believe in failing forward. When you know better, you do better — and I’m someone who can teach folks to watch out for these pitfalls.”
DINELLI COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
Progressive Democrat Nichole Rogers is a Basic certified Emergency Medical Technician and in 2012 earned an Associate of Arts and Sciences Degree in Integrated studies from Central NM Community. She lists her occupation as a “business consultant and financial adviser”. District 6 City Council candidate Nichole Rogers has repeatedly touted her “unique blend of lived experience and professional experience” as a reason to vote for her.
It is very difficult to understand how a candidate for Albuquerque City Council can hold herself out as a business consultant and financial advisor given her failures to file in a timely manner mandatory documents with the IRS, the New Mexico Attorney General, and the Secretary of State for a charitable organization she created.
The most troubling question that needs to be answered is exactly how much was she able to raise for her foundation since its creation in 2019 and where did the money go and what was it used for? No one knows, except Nichol Rogers. Forms are required annually of every 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Those forms are essentially a nonprofit’s income and expense report, allowing oversight of what revenue and donations were brought in, and how and where the money was spent. Not only does it provide financial oversight, but it ensures that a nonprofit’s spending is in accordance with its mission.
The IRS sends compliance letters, so pleading ignorance of the filing requirements is not a valid excuse. The IRS will not revoke a 501(c)(3) organization’s tax-exempt status unless the nonprofit has been out of compliance on filing of the forms for three consecutive years. This is what finally happened with the Welstand Foundation. Its tax-exempt nonprofit status was revoked on May 15, 2022. It was also listed as “Not In Good Standing” by the NM Secretary of State website as of October 20, 2023, but that has now changed.
A simple search on the NM Attorney General’s charity registry reveals no 990s have been filed with the office. Nichole Rogers posted Nextdoor.com social page in mid-October 2023 that she had closed the Foundation in 2020. That statement appears to false because in a more recent post on Nextdoor.com she stated she closed the nonprofit down in 2021.
It is clear that the Welstand Foundation continued to seek donations after after it was supposedly closed and did in fact bring in unreported revenue. Not only has the trust of private donors been violated, the public’s trust has been violated. The City of Albuquerque gave the Welstand Foundation at least $15,000, which has also never been fully accounted for by Rogers.
Other questions that Nichole Rogers needs to answer before the election include:
Will Nichole Rogers seek more city funding to benefit Welstand Foundation or does she intend to step down from its management or dissolve the corporation if she is elected?
Will Nichole Rogers continue with fundraising efforts for Welstand Foundation if she is elected and to what extent?
Will Nichole Rogers engage in lobbying efforts on behalf of Welstand Foundation before the New Mexico legislature as a registered lobbyist if she is elected and to what extent will she lobby on behalf of the city?
In the interest of full disclosure and transparency as a candidate for city council, Nichole Rogers should release her personal income tax returns as well as those of Welstand Foundation so that a comparison can be made and her sources of income can be disclosed as to what extent she has personally benefited from her fund raising activities for the corporation.
Unless Nichole Rogers answers the questions posed and releases tax returns, she should withdraw from the race.
District 6 City Councilor Candidate Nichole Roger’s Holds Herself Out As Business And Financial Consultant; Failed To Timely File Required Legal Documents For Her Charitable Nonprofit; Failed To Make Full Accounting As To Where Funds Raised Has Gone; Rogers Should Release Tax Returns; Will Rogers Seek City Funding For Her Non-Profit If Elected City Councilor And Lobby New Mexico Legislature For It?