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Senior center board seeks donor's trust

The Costa Mesa Senior Center board wants to know specifically Albert Dixon's intent when he pledged money to the facility.

February 25, 2014|By Hannah Fry | This post has been corrected, as noted below.

Members of the Costa Mesa Senior Center board want permission to read a section of a man's trust that set up a memorial fund to benefit the center.

The request is for more specific information on whether the memorial fund can only be used to pay for center programming, such as classes and social activities, as some board members speculate, or if it can be used to shore up the organization's ailing financial health.

The budget problems came to light after the city published an audit predicting that the senior center's general fund would run dry by June.

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Board members are brainstorming ways to keep the doors open. One idea presented was to request $160,000 from the memorial foundation, which was created after senior center enthusiast Albert Dixon died 12 years ago.

The senior center board voted 7 to 2 on Feb. 18 to request funds from the foundation. However, the vote came with significant debate, since a majority of the senior center board have not seen documentation of Dixon's final wishes.

Some of the board members suggested holding off on accepting funds from the Albert Dixon Memorial Foundation until after they review the trust.

Several senior center visitors who knew Dixon said he wanted the money to be used to support activities and programs, not operating costs.

"We need to see the legal documentation to see how we are supposed to be using this money," board member Stella Adkins said during the meeting. "We haven't seen any legal documents on this. We've asked several times."

Adkins requested that board members hold off on requesting the funds until they know for sure whether the money was earmarked specifically for programming. Her appeal did not gain traction with her peers.

Senior center board President Judy Lindsay hasn't see the document either. Lindsay, who also sits on the foundation board, explained that the board and staff are "looking into it."

"I've never seen it," she said. "No one's really read it thoroughly yet. All I've known is what board members have told me."

However, on Tuesday, foundation President Mike Scheafer said he reviewed Dixon's estate documents and that they did not include specifications about how the money gifted to the center was supposed to be spent.

The debate among senior center board members and staff over requesting funds highlights a larger problem at the senior center, including a lack of transparency and miscommunication, some board members assert.

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