Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

Bob Donovan’s Shadowy Charity

Operation Impact raises money to combat crime. But where are its records?

By - May 17th, 2012 09:05 am
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Milwaukee Ald. Bob Donovan loves creating non-profit groups, even if it gets him in hot water.

Back in 2005, Donovan was indicted on a federal charge of defrauding the government through his involvement with the Milwaukee Alliance, a non-profit he started after his election to the Common Council in 2000. The indictment charged that Donovan used his aldermanic funds to help pay the bills of the Milwaukee Alliance, whose employees included his wife Kathy Donovan and his stepdaughter Stephanie Repich. Donovan also voted to give the group a federal grant, without disclosing his connections to the group. The Milwaukee Alliance also did some constituent services for Donovan and provided him with free space for a district office.

In November, 2005, Donovan agreed to a non-criminal resolution to the indictment whereby he paid a $2,500 fine and agreed not be involved with any non-profit receiving federal funds for the next two years.

Not long after the two years was up, Donovan was back, with a new group called “Operation Impact,” created to fight crime in his South Side district. A 2011 news release by the group announced that “over the last three years, Operation Impact has raised several hundreds of thousands of dollars… from local businesses, foundations and individuals” to help pay for police overtime for beat cops, new lights for alleys and surveillance cameras for businesses on the South Side. The group’s website thanks a long list of donors, including four local foundations, six local businesses and the Milwaukee Police Association.

The group’s splashiest impact came when Donovan convinced Garda armored services to donate a used armored courier truck, nicknamed “the Rhino, ” to the Milwaukee Police Department.

Donovan, though, had much bigger plans, and was pushing to fund Operation Impact with another $700,000 in government funding from the city and state.

Precisely how much money was actually raised or spent by his group is difficult to say. I can’t find any records for it. Operation Impact is not registered with the State of Wisconsin and no records for it appear at Guidestar.org, which tracks all non-profits. (By contrast, the Milwaukee Alliance, which went of business in 2006, could be found both in state records and at Guidestar.) Mick Daley of the Wisconsin Department of Regulation and Licensing, says there is “no record of any kind” for Operation Impact.

At least some of Operation Impact’s fundraising was done through the Milwaukee Christian Center, a south side non-profit. That group’s most recent federal tax form, for 2010, does have one line listing a total of $59,816 raised for Operation Impact and expenses of $3,589. But there is no mention of the group in its 2009 and 2008 tax forms. And the 2010 federal form doesn’t offer any detailed accounting of where the donations for Operation Impact came from or how the money for expenses was spent.

All of the press releases for Operation Impact have actually been issued by Donovan’s office at City Hall, list him as the contact person and are studded with quotes from Donovan, including one of him quoting Winston Chuchill. A press release quoted Donovan saying donations for police overtime were being collected by the Common Council. As with the Milwaukee Alliance, it’s difficult to know the boundary lines between Operation Impact and Ald. Donovan’s office, where one ends and the other begins.

To further complicate things, Donovan also runs some group called “Common Sense,” with its slogan “Ideas for a Better Milwaukee.” The site promotes Operation Impact, and lists the phone number of Donovan’s aldermanic aide Patricia Doherty. It also runs articles by Donovan and what appear to be his supporters, seconding his stands on various city issues.

Jodi Hazen, finance director for the Milwaukee Christian Center, directed all questions about Operation Impact to the center’s executive director, Barbara J. Wyatt Sibley, who is out of the office until next week.

As for Donovan, when I reached him by phone he asked what I was calling about. I said Operation Impact. Donovan’s response: “Oh. Okay. Have a good evening.” Then he hung up the phone.

Categories: Murphy's Law

2 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: Bob Donovan’s Shadowy Charity”

  1. Jim Tarantino says:

    Comin out of the gates swinging for the fences.

  2. Stacy Marconi says:

    Speaking of Winston Churchill quotes, here is another.

    A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.

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