JANESVILLE – As a former first responder, Cedric Hathway was usually good for a donation when a law charity came calling in the name of law enforcement.
“We take care of each other,” said Hathway, a retired Janesville paramedic.
But one day in 2013, a call came from a charity that did not sound right.
“He called up and said he was with the Wisconsin County Police Association. Which immediately threw me for a loop because Wisconsin doesn't have county police,” he said.
While county police do not exist in Wisconsin, the County Police Association does.
Tax documents obtained by the I-Team show it is a not-for-profit that exists "to legally represent and lobby for laws relating to county law enforcement officers."
But the WCPA also does a lot of telephone fundraising. Over the last two years, that has landed the group on the state’s do not call complaint list a dozen times. Many more consumers have taken their complaints to social media.
Hathway vented on Facebook when a representative from WCPA “wanted to argue” with him on the phone.
“I know it's not theft, but ethically I think it is theft,” Hathway said.
So the I-Team took those tax documents to Chicago and the office of Daniel Borochoff.
He is the president of Charity Watch, a group that scrutinizes not-for-profits and grades them on a scale from A to F, depending on how efficiently they spend the public’s donations.
His verdict on the WCPA was harsh.
“This charity is an easy 'F' grade. They're really not doing anything with their money,” Borochoff said.
Borochoff came to that conclusion after looking at three years of WCPA records.
From 2012 through 2014, records show people donating $945,645 to the WCPA. Over those three years, only $24,995 was handed out as charitable donations. Another $45,500 was spent on hiring a lobbyist to visit state lawmakers.
So where did all that money go?
WCPA records show it went to the telemarketers, who kept 85 percent of the take, totaling $807,000.
"You really gotta question why this organization even exists,” Borochoff said.
The I-Team made multiple attempts to interview the head of the WCPA, Robert Wierenga.
Wierenga is the group's executive director and a Walworth County deputy. Twice he scheduled and cancelled appointments to explain where all the money goes.
Tax records show some of that money goes to Wirenga, as he and his eight fellow board members pay themselves.
Over the last three years that's added up to $43,889, nearly $20,000 more than the group has distributed as charity.
Cedric Hathway said this hurts, because a million dollars could have done local police some real good.
“It's really aggravating. I know how short local departments are on funds,” Hathway said.
Daniel Borochoff agrees that is the real harm.
“If a charity is wasteful and inefficient, that's money not available to people who really need it,” Borochoff said.