Tangled Web Unravels at High Profile Institute for International Sport

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March 1, 2012; Source: Newsday

A complicated nonprofit scandal is unfolding by the day in Kingston, R.I. as revelations about the Institute for International Sport expose what appears to be a significant lack of oversight by its funders stretching back a decade and a half.

A well respected program founded in 1986 by former basketball coach Daniel Doyle, the Institute’s World Scholar-Athlete Games have, according to the Washington Post, “brought together thousands of young student athletes from around the world and visits by dignitaries including former President Bill Clinton, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former Secretary of State Colin Powell.” The organization says its vision is to help foster an irenic (peace promoting) attitude on a world scale.

But the Institute appears to have been given a mulligan where accountability has been concerned. It recently had a $72,000 lien filed against it by the IRS, $22,000 of which was for unpaid 2010 payroll taxes and $50,000 of which was dating back to 2001. But preceding these, there were two older liens for unpaid payroll taxes totaling $36,000 in1996.

Still, the Institute has been granted in excess of $5 million by the state since 1999 and, as late as 2007, the organization was awarded a $575,000 state grant for a new building which was partially built but now sits empty with no electricity, plumbing or heat. Only $163,000 of the expenses for that project have been documented, according to a state audit released earlier this month. The state is now investigating where the rest went. The building is on the grounds of the University of Rhode Island, to which the institute owes (as of January) $380,846 for payroll and other services.

But is it just the State of Rhode Island that was asleep at the switch? No. According to the Providence Journal, The Atlantic Philanthropies gave the organization a $4 million sustainability grant in 2005. A few weeks ago, Atlantic Philanthropies spokeswoman Edith Asibey commented: “We just became aware of it, and are fully cooperating with the state’s authorities. I have no further information to share.”

More locally, a Rhode Island philanthropist, Alan Shawn Feinstein, said he lost $1 million to the organization ten years ago but he actually seems resigned, expressing more sympathy for a fellow philanthropist, Alan Hassenfeld, who not only donated $743,748 to the Institute between 2006 and 2010 from his own foundation, but also persuaded others to donate. “Poor Alan put his reputation on the line and this is going to cost him a fortune,” said Feinstein. “He has promised people who had given money to the Institute for International Sport if anything went wrong he would be responsible. This of course is nothing to do with the state funding at all.”

Adding insult to injury, Hassenfeld’s signature is alleged to have been forged in an annual report from the Institute.

Meanwhile, a closer look at the operation has revealed that some of those listed as board members are not. For instance, human rights activist and poet Rose Styron was listed as a board member on federal tax documents between 2002 and 2008. But, although Styron once traveled with the Institute to Northern Ireland, she was apparently unaware that she was on the board. The same was true for a retired insurance executive, and another board member was still listed for three years after his death.

Finally, in a new development that may begin to explain where some of the funds went, it has now been reported that, starting in October of 2004 and extending over eight months, the Institute bought two vacation homes and four lots on the exclusive Bald Head Island in North Carolina for a total of $2.95 million. It is also reported that Doyle and an associate personally spent $1.4 million starting in February of 2004 on five Bald Head lots. All of that property has plummeted in value and two properties have been foreclosed on.

Rhode Island state police report that 12 detectives are working on this case. –Ruth McCambridge