Nonprofit Newswire | Flap Threatens to Ground Charity’s Medical Flights

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April 5, 2010; Boston Globe | A flap between the founder of Angel Flight of New England—a Boston-based nonprofit that gives patients a free ride to their doctors—and former board members is raising questions about the group’s future as well as the charity’s governance structure.

Earlier this year, Angel Flight’s Executive Director Lawrence Camerilin fired the entire board. His action followed simmering anger inside the group that began after directors fired Camerin’s daughter last July from her $80,000 position with the charity. In response, dismissed directors—some of them the group’s largest donors who are now threatening to withhold future support—have asked Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley to investigate allegations of misuse of charitable funds.

While its flights continue far above the turbulence on the ground, some worry that the longer this fight goes on the greater the chance operations will stall. Angel Flight currently books about 100 flights a week. Shockingly, Angel Flight’s bylaws give Camerlin and his wife, Ruth—the organization’s s sole “voting members”—power to remove the board without consent required from anyone else.

In what can only be characterized as an understatement, the Boston Globe quotes Thomas A. McLaughlin, vice president at the Nonprofit Finance Fund, who calls this governance structure “highly unusual.” He adds that a nonprofit’s board “should be representative of the community at large, and they should be fiduciaries. It is arguable that this is a breach of fiduciary duty.’’

Camerlin maintains that his actions have only been in the organization’s best interests and that contrary to criticism, the power he and his wife hold provide Angel Flight “great stability.” Commenting on the bumps the group is facing, Peter Ryan, a pilot and former Angel Flight director from Greenwich, Conn., said “in the end, the patients will suffer.’’—Bruce Trachtenberg