On Friday, November 3, the online news outlet “New Mexico Sun” published the following news article:
HEADLINE: City council candidate fails to file legal documents, make full accounting for her charity
City Council candidate for District 6, Nichole Rogers, failed to file the required legal documents for her charitable nonprofit and has not disclosed a full accounting of funds raised, including how donations were spent, according to IRS documents from August of 2022 and New Mexico government department documents from this year.
Rogers started the Welstand Foundation in 2019 “to enhance all aspects of well-being for under-served and under-represented youth in New Mexico,” according to the New Mexico Secretary of State website.
The candidate, who said her occupation is “business consultant and financial adviser” to the Albuquerque Journal, has not publicly discussed the status of her foundation and attempts made to keep it in good standing with the New Mexico Attorney General and Secretary of State. Rogers also failed to file mandatory documents with the Internal Revenue Service, a delinquency first noted by the agency in May of 2022.
The IRS revoked the Welstand Foundation’s status on May 15, 2022. According to the IRS website, tax-exempt organizations that do not file 990-series returns for three consecutive years face this consequence.
On Oct. 20, 2023, the New Mexico Secretary of State listed Welstand Foundation as “active” but “not in good standing.” However, as of Nov. 1, it’s now in good standing, according to the SoS website.
Blogger Pete Dinelli reports that at least one media inquiry was made with Rogers regarding the foundation’s status and that she possibly took action to meet the IRS and SoS requirements as a result.
According to the New Mexico Attorney General’s charity search website, Welstand has been delinquent on its registration status since 2019.
“There are strict requirements set up by the IRS and the state of NM to maintain nontaxable, charitable status,” said Larry Sonntag of the New Mexico Business Coalition. ”Following these requirements is one way to safeguard donors’ money. Unfortunately, some people solicit money under the guise of a charitable cause when they are not a legit charity or foundation and they use the money for their benefit.”
“The loss of charitable status is, or should be a huge red flag to donors. Likewise, it is unscrupulous at least and a violation of codes/laws at worst if an organization continues to solicit ‘charitable’ donations when their status has been revoked.”
While the state requires nonprofits to file their IRS forms and asks for additional donor information, neither the state nor the IRS requires exact details on how donation money is used. However, the reports on Weslstand have line items for some details like income and expenses, including executive director and officer compensation, Sonntag said.
“So by not filing reports, who knows how much Nicole may have been paid/benefits, etc. from Welstand.”
Dinelli also reported on a Nextdoor.com post by Rogers in mid-October, in which the candidate said that Welstand was no more as of 2020. In a most recent post on Nextdoor.com, Rogers said she shut down the nonprofit in 2021; however, the foundation’s Facebook page shows that donations were still accepted in 2022.
According to the foundation’s Facebook page and City Council records, Welstand received and solicited donations while not in compliance with the state and IRS.
On Nov. 1, the foundation’s website and Facebook page were removed.
Marble Brewery, Nexus Brewery, and Hollow Spirits Distillery partnered with the foundation in February 2021 to create a special beer with 25% of the proceeds to Welstand. Rogers accepted the donation the following month, totaling $2,726.75.
According to the foundation’s Instagram, Albuquerque City Council allocated $15,000 to Welstand on May 18, 2020, through the city’s Coronavirus Community Support and Recovery Funds.
Rogers said the donation would help fund Welstand Village, the foundation’s first group home for children of color slated to open in the summer of 2021. The group home was never built.
The foundation again partnered with Marble Brewery on March 31, 2022 and announced that its Red Beers & Rice Lager raised $3,864.
Rogers, who is also the black community and business liaison to Mayor Time Keller, will face off against District 6 candidates in the Nov. 7 election.
“Unless she can prove that all the public records on Welstand Foundation are wrong,” Sonntag said. “Nicole Rogers wanting to be elected to a position that has oversight of billions in tax dollars should also be a red flag for voters.”
The link to the New Mexico Sun article is here:
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.
The link to the Dinelli blog article cited is here:
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?
ABOUT THE NEW MEXICO SUN
The New Mexico Sun is part of the Sun Publishing group which is a nonprofit. The New Mexico Sun “mission statement” states in part:
“The New Mexico Sun was established to bring fresh light to issues that matter most to New Mexicans. It will cover the people, events, and wonders of our state. … The New Mexico Sun is non-partisan and fact-based, and we don’t maintain paywalls that lead to uneven information sharing. We don’t publish quotes from anonymous sources that lead to skepticism about our intentions, and we don’t bother our readers with annoying ads about products and services from non-locals that they will never buy. … Many New Mexico media outlets minimize or justify problematic issues based on the individuals involved or the power of their positions. Often reporters fail to ask hard questions, avoid making public officials uncomfortable, and then include only one side of a story. This approach doesn’t provide everything readers need to fully understand what is happening, why it matters, and how it will impact them or their families.”
The home page link to the New Mexico Sun is here: