State Orders Independent Audit of Bellosguardo Foundation Finances

State Orders Independent Audit of Bellosguardo Foundation Finances title=
Bellosguardo | Credit: Paul Wellman (file)
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This story was originally published by the Santa Barbara Independent and is reproduced here in partnership with Edhat.


By Tyler Hayden of The Independent

The California Attorney General’s Office is demanding an independent audit of the Bellosguardo Foundation for its last three tax years after the nonprofit repeatedly failed to file complete financial records with the state Registry of Charitable Trusts.

In a letter sent this Monday, October 25, officials gave the foundation until November 29 to conduct the outside audit. In the meantime, they said, Bellosguardo has been listed in the registry as “delinquent,” meaning it is “not in good standing and is prohibited from engaging in conduct for which registration is required, including soliciting or disbursing charitable funds.” While the foundation is registered in New York, it still must comply with California transparency laws that govern any nonprofit that fundraises in the state.

The notice comes two weeks after the Santa Barbara Independent published an opinion column outlining local concerns over an apparent lack of progress by the Bellosguardo Foundation ― which took possession of Huguette Clark’s 23-acre cliff-top estate in 2017 ― in transforming the historic property into a public destination to “foster and promote the arts,” as Clark’s will dictated. It has instead been used exclusively as a high-dollar venue for parties, weddings, and private tours with little outward communication from its president or board. Bellosguardo’s defenders say proceeds from these events will help the organization carry out its mission of opening the grounds to all. 

In March, foundation president Jeremy Lindaman submitted an application, which was previously approved by the city’s Historic Landmarks Commission, to its Planning Division to begin offering guided tours. Longer term, Lindaman said, the property will be turned into a museum. Planning staff said they were in “general support” of the tours proposal but were struck by its lack of detail, including how and when they would be conducted, how parking would be accommodated, where restroom facilities would be located, and so on. “You have not directly answered any of our questions,” staff said at the time.

In an email to the Independent this Tuesday, Lindaman said he will “likely” submit a revised application to the city “in the next week.” Meanwhile, the foundation’s website is asking local supporters to sign a petition in favor of the pending plan. “We are nearing the point where discretionary approval by the Planning Commission and possibly the Santa Barbara City Council is necessary,” the site reads. “It is critical that we are able to say how many of our supporters are Santa Barbara residents.”

The foundation has also announced that a selection of artwork by Clark, who was a painter as well as a collector, will be lent to the Santa Barbara Historical Museum for an upcoming exhibition. “Revealing Mrs. Clark’s artwork for the first time in 90 years is just the beginning, with much more to come,” promised Sandi Nicholson, a member of the Bellosguardo board, in a prepared statement. “Our goal is to open the estate to the public as a center for the arts.”

With regard to the audit, Lindaman said he’s deferring to the “advice and expertise” of the foundation’s accountant, Judy Dolan Holehouse with the financial firm Nasif, Hicks, Harris & Co. Holehouse has asked the Attorney General’s Office to reconsider its order, and if it does not, to give her longer than a month to comply.

Publicly accessible records from 2018 and 2019 ― the most recent available ― show the foundation controls $86.9 million in assets, approximately $23 million of which is tied up in Clark’s 27-room summer mansion, though the aging building has depreciated in value by $1.5 million since 2017. The land it sits on was valued this year at $53 million and the property tax bill was $563,000, according to the County Assessor’s Office.

Bellosguardo’s promotional and event expenses for 2018 and 2019 totaled $472,098, while event rentals only generated $190,650 in income, the records show. One of the nonprofit’s primary expenses, in addition to insurance, maintenance, and utility costs, is Lindaman’s $150,000 annual salary, a raise from previous years, as well as the $60,000 and $55,000 salaries of a house supervisor and groundskeeper, respectively.

Clark’s estate contributed $850,000 in cash to the foundation (her private funds are still being released from probate) as well as a $1.6 million doll collection, which has since been auctioned off. Private donations totaled $978,796. Some of the larger donors include Susie Bechtel, wife of Montecito billionaire Riley Bechtel, who gave $75,500; Law & Order producer and foundation board chair Dick Wolf ($50,000); tech investor and entrepreneur Richard Janssen and his wife Lucille ($27,500); board member Gary Tobey ($25,000); Lady Leslie Ridley-Tree ($25,000); the Busch Family Foundation ($25,000); and the Armand Hammer Foundation ($25,000).

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Byzantium Oct 29, 2021 09:01 AM
State Orders Independent Audit of Bellosguardo Foundation Finances

The NewPress "Investigator" who has taken the lead on this topic found a very curious relationship between those appointed by Mayor Schneider to the foundation board, and those who also donated to Ms Schneider's failed Congressional campaign at the same time. Coincidence is not causation. Read his article printed recently and decide for yourself. But meanwhile, back to basics. This fountains does not belong to the city in any way shape or form. It is a private non-profit and can do pretty much whatever they want, within in the confines of current governing regulations for non-profit organizations. Its value as a "museum" was an odd choice. How many people would pay to look inside and how many times would they repeat that admission charge to make its role as a "museum" sustainable. However, that is within the collective wisdom of the foundation board members of this independent operation to decide.

Byzantium Oct 29, 2021 11:41 AM
State Orders Independent Audit of Bellosguardo Foundation Finances

Full quote in fairness TheKids, respond please to what was put on the table: ........ " It is a private non-profit and can do pretty much whatever they want, within in the confines of current governing regulations for non-profit organizations. .........."

Crystalandmaui Oct 29, 2021 08:03 AM
State Orders Independent Audit of Bellosguardo Foundation Finances

Wow, a lot of wrong doing, these nonprofit organizations seem to always some how avoid in doing what was intended . Because no one is following up. Lucky them.
Art is in the eye of who appreciates it and finds true respect for it. I am most intrigued of looking inside this house. And mystery of it.
Just because it needs renovating and may have termites so what so does our homes do we tare them down no we fix them.
If she left so much money why wasn’t it used to fix the place? Instead of going into the pockets of others for doing nothing? Why has this taken so long to make it right? Where’s her money?
Wow so many thieves, but I bet they look down on others who aren’t so fortunate, yep such hypocrisy from the rich as they find loop holes to steal.
Well the city can make it right if they wanted to.
The house is there the money was there, the will and testament said leave it to the people of Santa Barbara to enjoy. So what’s the problem? Get off your asses and make it happen.

yin yang Oct 28, 2021 11:10 PM
State Orders Independent Audit of Bellosguardo Foundation Finances

Please read the end of this article under the heading "State Attorney General Lists Foundation As Delinquent for Omitting Audits From Financial Reports".

The accounting firm has a good argument. I am not versed enough in non-profit nor any other kind of law to make a decision. Santa Barbara has to wait and see how the courts decide this.

I do agree that I would never work for or donate to a non-profit that wasn't transparent. But I imagine the people who are doing so for the Clark Estate believe in it. It's of course their right to give their money. I'll stick to SB Food Bank and the SB Foundation and their partnership with local United Way, and state and national food banks, and medical care ; issues that may be divisive but address literal survival.

yin yang Oct 28, 2021 11:11 PM
State Orders Independent Audit of Bellosguardo Foundation Finances

This is the news article that I'm referring to. It contains much information, and the arguments of Bellosguardo's accounting firm, toward the end:

https://www.noozhawk.com/article/bellosguardo_foundation_santa_barbara_estate_events_public_access_permits

Bill Dedman Oct 28, 2021 07:45 PM
State Orders Independent Audit of Bellosguardo Foundation Finances

Summarizing this story without the Independent's scary headline: The foundation told the state it is auditing 2020 aleeady but didn't think it had to audit 2018 or 2019, based on the source of its revenue. The state said, you're right on 2018 but you have to audit 2019. When you read the actual letter from the state AG, that's what it says. See https://rct.doj.ca.gov/Verification/Web/Download.aspx?saveas=CT0229090+102521+Audit+Waiver+Request+-+Denial+Letter.pdf&document_id=09027b8f80463eec

ZBHotep Oct 29, 2021 04:59 PM
State Orders Independent Audit of Bellosguardo Foundation Finances

Not reasonable at all. The AG approved the accounting firm’s argument for the first year that the foundation took possession. Since then…? Let’s see where the money has gone. What is the ratio of money spent on planning fees and progress toward a plan to that of administration and roosting. Because the only result the city has seen is a bare bones plan that did not receive approval and was in fact disparaged as answering zero questions towards approval.

ZBHotep Oct 29, 2021 11:01 AM
State Orders Independent Audit of Bellosguardo Foundation Finances

Yes. The AG is starting their work towards ensuring public accountability. They have received our complaints. Im sure your bud Jeremy is thrilled about it. Indeed, I will now submit an added complaint asking the state to look into who is living in the caretaker’s home and at what monthly rent.

yin yang Oct 28, 2021 11:03 PM
State Orders Independent Audit of Bellosguardo Foundation Finances

Yes, the Foundation's attorney has a very reasonable, to a layman, argument.

In response to someone who days ago pointed out who, in this thread, is supporting property rights, I'm a liberal who has worked at several health-care and one animal-focused local non-profits. Thus I support non-profit organizations' rights. Of course I will extend philosophical support to a non-profit whose aims I do not personally support. That's why I also support free speech rights.

ZBHotep Oct 29, 2021 04:13 PM
State Orders Independent Audit of Bellosguardo Foundation Finances

Where’s the progress to reward its leadership like that. A plan should have been ready day one that the foundation took ownership, but the city has waited additional years to receive an incomplete and sketchy plan application. Where has the funding gone if there is no detailed plan? What has the foundation and its president been doing for all these years: fast approaching a decade. What warrants salary and housing if the only result the city has received is a skeleton of a plan??? No wonder the AG is being firm with them.

The foundation would get chased out of town with torches if they tried to sell. I could swear you sound like Jeremy himself!!!

SantaBarbaraObserver Oct 29, 2021 02:44 PM
State Orders Independent Audit of Bellosguardo Foundation Finances

That person epitomizes the worst traits of some of our locals. An entitled, nosy, busy-body with way too much time on their hands and a huge amount of envy and anger. People like them are the worst. For some reason, Santa Barbara is full of them. Maybe its the water, or the air? Dunno. But this town attracts and fosters Karen's like no other...

You continue to explain the reality of the situation but they dont want to know the facts.

Bill Dedman Oct 29, 2021 02:30 PM
State Orders Independent Audit of Bellosguardo Foundation Finances

I'd missed this claim. So you're contending that a private foundation is allowing a caretaker to live in its CARETAKER cottage without charging rent? Wow, that sure sounds scandalous. How did they handle this before, when you complained about estate manager Al Hoelscher living in the Clark staff home? Did you accuse estate manager John Douglas of criminal activity for living in the Clark beach house? No? You didn't? Because these are not genuine concerns. You're concern trolling. Again, it's a private foundation based in New York, with a board appointed by the NY attorney general. It's a great thing that the foundation has set a mission of opening for public tours -- going toward openness in a way that you won't find in Huguette Clark's will. (The foundation could just sell the property to Ty Warner, and then you'd never get inside.) I'm glad the foundation has set a goal of opening, glad we'll all be able to tour, to see the beautiful home, to hear the family's story. I understand why there's pent-up demand. But things take time, especially when a property hasn't been used for 60 years. But it's privately owned, and the foundation can go at any pace it chooses. If it wants to raise money in the meantime by having private events, it can do that, as any property owner can, and it has gotten city permits. Those events raise money that the foundation doesn't have to raise from donors, competing with other nonprofits. But getting open for daily tours takes a lot of steps, and ADA requirements have to be met, landmarks commission, conditional use permit, coastal commission, etc. That's the perspective left out of these opinion pieces in the Independent: They don't have to open at all, but they've chosen that goal. And it's privately owned, not city owned, not city funded.

ZBHotep Oct 28, 2021 01:38 PM
State Orders Independent Audit of Bellosguardo Foundation Finances

Lindaman had four years to write up a plan while the estate was in legal limbo— didn’t happen.

Lindaman has had another four years to write up a plan after the estate was officially transferred to the foundation— hasn’t happened.

The fruit of Lindaman’s 8 years of employment was a planning permit application that HAD NO DETAILS. Lindaman is unbelievably lazy and incompetent. The fact that he has a received any salary at all is criminal.

Twisted_Wizard_SB Oct 28, 2021 12:11 PM
State Orders Independent Audit of Bellosguardo Foundation Finances

Much if the estate, the glass houses, the various pools, are in an unsafe condition to be open to the public. The buildings are termite ridden and kind if decrepit. It will take millions to get the place ready for public access. I spent quite a lot of time there trimming the trees for John Douglas. The most economical approach would probably be to bulldoze everything and build a new facility. But, why does Santa Barbara need another art facility? I know we here generate more art than there is walk space to display it, but, I dunno, just a quiet park with pedestrian access only for the public with restrooms and showers. Free electric wheelchairs at the gates for the disabled. That is my vision...

SBTownie Oct 28, 2021 05:54 PM
State Orders Independent Audit of Bellosguardo Foundation Finances

I agree. We especially do not need a museum showcasing whatever kind of "art" would be shown here. Doll art, perhaps? Frankly I am kind of weirded out that the Historical Museum is presenting her paintings. It is not good art, and Huguette Clark was a deeply troubled person with an uninspiring story. It's especially odd to be at the mercy of her whims for indulging in "the arts" or whatever when it's from beyond the grave. I really don't care what happens with Bellosguardo, but I did find the fact that Helene installed her boyfriend in a paid position for an organization that doesn't really do jack sh*t to be quite foul and I welcome the investigation of this organization.

TheKid5 Oct 28, 2021 04:36 PM
State Orders Independent Audit of Bellosguardo Foundation Finances

I agree with your assessment. Santa Barbara does not need another museum.
It can be turned into another Fioli type venue with walkthroughs and beautiful grounds overlooking the Pacific. The place has been neglected for decades and needs a lot of work, some of which can be done by volunteers. The issue is that nothing has been done by Lindaman and the board to even start the ball rolling after several years.. They have spent more money than they have taken in. Lindaman is at $150k a year. What has he done for this salary? Holding parties and weddings there has resulted in a poor perception of what is going on with Ms. Clarks generous gift made for the enjoyment of all. Perception is reality! Why have prominent deep pocket locals quit the board? What prompted the AG's audit request? It doesn't look good.

TheKid5 Oct 28, 2021 11:29 AM
State Orders Independent Audit of Bellosguardo Foundation Finances

The State of CA AG has finally taken action regarding the funds given to the estate's foundation and the way they are being spent. Because the foundation is registered in NY State, California has no jurisdiction of the physical aspects of the Board of Directors. However, the State of CA has laws governing how non-profits raise money from within the State of California and how it is accounted for by the non-profit. This is the crux of this investigation by the CA AG: Show us what came into the foundation in funding through CA sources and show us how it was spent.

Robert Eringer in the News-Press and Tyler Hayden's pieces helped kick the door in. Tyler Hayden has been on this story for years with multiple pieces. I I wrote the CA AG in 2018 and the state took no action then. Others have pointed to this travesty, but it has taken almost eight years. Sticking with their usual MO, Mayor Murillo and the City Council did nothing. They were probably too busy enjoying the parties at the estate.

The estate had degenerated into a party place for the rich, the famous and the connected, including Dick Wolf, Mayor Murillo her City Council pals.

Helene Schneider was tasked with guiding this wonderful gift for all to enjoy to fruition, but wound up giving her former campaign manager and boyfriend Jeremy Lindaman a cushy six figure job as Executive Director of foundation who did not have one minutes' experience of running such an enterprise. Along came Dick Wolf and his rich pals and it became a wedding and party spot on the Pacific.

It took many years, but then God has a a busy schedule.

Warmest regards and thanks to all that made this happen.

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