State threatens to fine, disband Mustangs over annual reports

MILFORD – The president of the Milford Mustangs says he hopes to get the organization’s paperwork problems solved soon so the club can start registering children for the fall season.

The football and cheerleading club stopped taking new registrations because the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Charitable Trust Unit says the organization hasn’t complied with the state law requiring it to file annual reports.

The complaint was filed March 27 in Merrimack County Superior Court against the nonprofit Mustangs Youth Football and Cheerleading Association and its 12 officers.

The Charitable Trust Unit is asking the court to revoke the Mustangs’ nonprofit status, dissolve the corporation and impose a fine, saying failure to file annual reports “constitutes a breach of trust.”

The office of Thomas Donovan, state director of charitable trusts, has been seeking reports for 2013, 2014 and 2015.

“The public needs confidence that a charity organization is using money” in a way that is in line with its mission, Donovan said Monday.

Mustangs President Christopher McNeil said Monday that the annual reports have been prepared but haven’t been sent out, and that he expects the situation to be resolved in time to sign children up for the new season.

“We are struggling along here, trying to benefit kids,” he said.

It has been difficult gathering all of the necessary information, and none of the club officers have bookkeeping experience, he said.

The club was organized in 2006, and it typically has about 100 children on its football and cheerleading teams. McNeil said he took over the leadership 2 1/2 years ago after the president and treasurer quit.

In 2010, he was one of several parents who complained about club leadership, saying it lacked transparency.

The state investigated the organization and made several recommendations to address weaknesses in finance and governance.

Despite training from the state and the adoption of new bylaws, the organization continued to run into trouble for not filing annual reports, Donovan wrote in his complaint to the court.

The situation came to a head in January 2016 when the Secretary of State’s Office formally dissolved the group from its listings for failing to file the 2015 nonprofit report.

From April 2016 until December, the Charitable Trust Unit sent the Mustangs board requests for the overdue reports and granted several extensions. The complaint document says McNeil promised to deliver the overdue reports, but never followed through.

In November, after the AG’s office granted what it said was the last extension, it notified the Mustangs board of directors to appear in Concord to explain the reasons for the delay and to answer questions regarding the organization’s administration, but no one appeared.

Donovan said he realizes the board is likely made up of parents who have no experience with bookkeeping, but that New Hampshire has 10,000 charity organizations that manage to file reports in a timely way.

Until the Mustangs are back in good standing, they are not supposed to raise money, he said.

The Mustangs branched off from the Amherst Patriots in 2006. The club serves children ages 5-14 from Milford, Lyndeborough and Wilton.

There is no indication in the court filing that there are concerns about financial malfeasance, only a failure to file annual reports, which is required by law.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.

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