July 2, 2009
It's just common sense. An institution like Planned Parenthood doesn't just stop operating without something being terribly wrong. As NPT contributor Vanessa Torres wrote, " I’d feel better if there’d been some warning or even a last ditch call-to-action campaign for supporters to ‘Save Our Services.’ "
There was none, and the board members who might be expected to have known about this did not talk. I called two of them; one called me back but would say nothing. I called former director Betty Hoover, who left in 2007, but she also would say little.
I asked David Crowder how to approach this, and he said the place to start would be to examine the nonprofit's tax return, called a 990. Those are the reports that the Internal Revenue Service generally requires large nonprofits to file annually, and they're supposed to be made available to the public upon request.
The last 990 available from Guidestar online is 2006. So, I went down to the Planned Parenthood offices at 1801 Wyoming, in a building that houses multiple agencies and businesses. The Planned Parenthood office is at the end of a hallway, and door was open. As I approached, a secretary who was emerging from the office shut the door behind her, stood in front of it and asked me in clipped tones, "Can I help you?"
I told her I was there for NewspaperTree.com, and wanted to see the 990s. She said OK, went inside, and Analinda Moreno, the interim director, came to the door. I had been calling her earlier in the week, but she did not return the calls.
The atmosphere was tense, as if there was some sort of audit or review taking place. Moreno let me in, then asked me to sit down.
I asked her to see the 990s. She said her first priority was to take care of Planned Parenthood's 12,000 patients and she would not be able to see me until Monday. I said, "That's OK, I just want to see the 990s."
Moreno told me, "I'll let you know when they're available."
I asked, when can I expect them. They should be available. She said, "I'll let you know when they'll be available. My first priority is the 12,000 patients."
I think that's when I sort of blew it. I told her we were looking into the possibility of fiscal mismanagement. She got defensive, said she had no idea about that, and she stood up, as though I should leave. And I did, like a dummy.
Now Crowder's upset with me, and I might have blown a scoop.
So in an effort to be transparent and new media, I'm putting this out there and will keep you updated as to the process of our little botched investigation. You might not hear from me until Monday, though, as it's holiday weekend and I'm going camping, Yocos!