September 2, 2008
Eagle Tribune

ATKINSON, N.H. — Residents who have contributed to police Chief Philip Consentino’s donation accounts in the past must be part of the next step in legalizing how the funds are handled.

And if those donors have since died, the town will have to petition the court to move the money.

The Charitable Trust Unit of the state attorney general’s office has sent three letters to the town regarding Consentino’s handling of the police donation accounts and the elderly affairs program. Each letter, including the one received last week, has outlined steps selectmen and Consentino must take to comply with state law.

Selectmen say they were never contacted by Terry Knowles of the Charitable Trust Unit during the three-month inquiry into the donation accounts. They also have not acted on any of the letters from Knowles. They plan to schedule a workshop session to discuss the issues next week.

Consentino has met with Knowles and established a nonprofit organization — ¬­¬­the Atkinson Police Charitable Fund — to handle the donations and their uses. He set up a board of directors, which has met and elected its officers. But the nonprofit group doesn’t have any funding yet.

That’s because state law won’t allow Consentino to simply transfer the $19,7000 balance of the Atkinson Police Department’s Donation/Equipment Fund to the new nonprofit group. Knowles’ letter of Aug. 21 outlines how donors must give the town written permission to move their money.

Knowles was on vacation last week and could not be reached for comment.

“Therefore, if the original donor or donors are still living and can be identified, each donor has the legal authority to direct his or her donation be transferred from the custody of the town into the custody of the Atkinson Police Charitable Fund,” Knowles wrote. “If the donor makes the decision to transfer the donation, he or she should notify the Town of Atkinson in writing. If the original donor or donors cannot be identified or is now deceased, it will be necessary to file a petition with the probate court seeking permission to transfer that particular donation to the Atkinson Police Charitable Fund.”

Consentino says he knew of the regulation all along, and it won’t be a problem or require court involvement. He has copies of the “tens of thousands” of donations he has received over the 14 years the elderly affairs program has been in existence.

He said he simply went through that paperwork and created form letters for donors to sign and return.

“I just need enough signatures that equal the amount of money that’s in the fund,” Consentino said.

In the letters, he included the amount of money they donated and asked them to check that they authorize the transfer, sign and return it. Their sum contributions have totaled more than Consentino can guess, so he said it will be easy to get $19,000 worth of donors to give him authorization.

“I used not even a third of the letters of the checks that were donated to us,” he said. “It’s not a hard job.”

Letters have already started to trickle back to Consentino, and he said he was sure he’d have full permission by the next selectmen’s meeting, scheduled for Sept. 8.

Whether Consentino’s interpretation that he can get $19,700 worth of authorization from any donors and not the particular donors is accurate, is unclear.

Selectmen did not return numerous phone calls.