Nonprofit Newswire | A Secret Nike Contract, a Parks and Rec. Dept., and Fraud

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August 24, 2010; Source: Ledger-Enquirer | The Nonprofit Quarterly has been covering the itchiness about transparency at the Corporation for National and Community Service and the decision-making at the Social Innovation Fund, but transparency isn’t just a big federal issue. Here we have a piece about the arrest of two men from the Columbus (Ga.) Parks and Recreation Department, apparently for fraud and diverting public funds into a private bank account.

But complicating the investigation is a secret agreement that Parks and Rec. purportedly has with Nike, Inc. and a traveling basketball team called the Georgia Blazers. To determine whether there is a Nike contract with bearing on the arrests, the city attorney’s office is trying to get a copy of the Nike contract with Parks and Rec. and with the Blazers.

The contract apparently is held by a nonprofit called East Marietta Basketball, which asserts that the contract documents, if they exist, are not subject to public disclosure under the Georgia Open Records Act. E-mails from Parks and Rec. sent to Nike employees have referenced a Nike contract, but East Marietta won’t give the contract up.

Sometimes, the public interest in favor of disclosure should be paramount simply to answer questions that deserve an answer, such as whether the Columbus Parks and Rec. guys negotiated a contract with Nike that they should have revealed to the City Council and probably gotten approval for—if it was appropriate at all.—Rick Cohen