Tales from the Colorado Crypt: New Regulations Sought for Nonprofit Cemeteries


May 8, 2012; Source: Denver Post

In Colorado, a bill mandating that the boards of nonprofit cemeteries include at least one member who owns a grave plot of some kind has passed the legislature and now awaits Gov. John Hickenlooper’s consideration. The bill also states that cemetery plot owners or their representatives may attend the board meetings of nonprofit cemeteries, review minutes and other documents, and can obtain a court order if they are shut out.

If you’re like us, you’re wondering happened to trigger this curious legislation. According to the Denver Post, the bill comes in the wake of the paper’s report that the Trinidad Catholic Cemetery (which is, despite the name, not operated by anyone from the Catholic Church) “dumped headstones and miniature American flags behind its facility, and its board has violated its own by-laws, filed inaccurate reports with the IRS and had members who appeared to have conflicts of interest.

In February, Trinidad board member Nick DeBono told the Post that the cemetery is “a one-man operation” with something of a sham board and he filed a lawsuit against the other board members for financial mismanagement. In addition, it was reported that the cemetery moved one woman’s dead body, allegedly telling her family that they had accidentally buried her in someone else’s grave. Since the initial report, the Trinidad cemetery association has come to an agreement with Colorado’s attorney general that includes more stringent rules for the board and independent audits. Hopefully, this will make the board less of a “one-man operation,” which is so often a recipe for trouble.

It’s rare to see such a short window of time between a report of nonprofit board dereliction of duty in the press and a state government actually doing something about it. –Mike Keefe-Feldman


  • Carrie

    Well, this bill didn’t exactly stem out of one incident. For some reason – and perhaps it’s all over the US – but Colorado has seen it’s share of cemetery mismangement, and has been increasing regulation across the board. Non-profit cemeteries were probably exempt, and so it was an easy sell, I am guessing.

    It’s a little amazing it made it through the grandstanding filibuster of the State House this week. Many bills – not just one on Civil Uniona – died when the House leadership did not stop filibustering efforts by members so the Civil Unions bill could not be heard. Several pro-business bills died as well, and now the Governor has called a Special Session.