Food bank raises $60K to pay tax debt, continue operating

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A food bank has wrapped up a fundraising effort that started after it was revealed that the Lawrence mayor who was leading the nonprofit had failed to pay more than $61,000 in payroll taxes.

Just Food announced Wednesday that it had reached its goal of raising enough money to pay the taxes, the Lawrence Journal-World reported. The organization had hoped to pay the tax debt by Sept. 30, but it was required to do so by Oct. 20, per a deadline set by the Internal Revenue Service.

“At this point, we’re so glad to have the tax part taken care of,” said Kristi Henderson, president of Just Food’s board of directors. “It allows us to go back to focusing on our mission.”

Board member Nancy Thellman, who also serves as a Douglas County commissioner, said the nonprofit saw an upswing in donations on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Just Food, the county’s largest food bank, on Tuesday reached the $25,000 in community donations that it needed to receive an additional $25,000 that was pledged by an anonymous donor. Another $5,000 was contributed to the effort Wednesday, allowing the organization to receive a $5,000 match pledged by the Peoples Bank.

Thellman said Wednesday that the organization had been “very concerned” that it wouldn’t raise enough money. In letter last week to the newspaper, she said institutional bankruptcy was a possibility.

“While the amount of money needed was not insurmountable, the amount of trust that was needed to go along with that money was in question,” Thellman said. “We knew very well that people were wondering whether spending money on Just Food was money well spent.”

Just Food launched the fundraising effort after officials learned that former executive director Jeremy Farmer failed to pay more than $61,000 in federal and state payroll taxes for the food bank.

Farmer resigned as mayor of Lawrence last month, two days after he resigned from his job at the food bank. Farmer has said it was an oversight that the taxes weren’t paid.

The nonprofit’s internal investigation has been turned over to law enforcement.

 

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

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