FOP continues to solicit donations from family on no-call list

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Every month, JoAnn Ruble helps her 84-year-old father Jose Martinez pay his bills. That was how she discovered the problem.

"It was a donation slip," Ruble said. "I asked him why are they sending you this? 'Oh they called me.' I said, 'Dad don't be sending them money.'"

But her father said it's not easy saying no to police.

"Sometimes they insist," said Mr. Martinez, who gets calls multiple times a month even though he's on a no-call list.

Last year he made three donations for a total of $90, all before his daughter found out.

"Even though he appreciates everything the police do for them, he just really can't afford it," said Ruble. "He's on a fixed income."

To make sure the calls stopped, she called the number on the donation form, but it was disconnected. That's when she wrote a letter asking police to stop breaking the law by calling someone on the no-call list. But the calls continued.

They were all from the West Central Missouri Fraternal Order of Police, which represents 800 officers, including the Jackson County Sheriff's Department, Lee's Summit Police and Raytown Police. Finally, she called Fox 4 Problem Solvers.

Although Mr. Martinez thought he was talking to a police officer, the calls were actually being made by employees of a professional fundraiser company hired by the FOP. Comunity Financial Services operates a call center in a Northland office building.

Fox 4 Problem Solvers paid a visit, but no one was willing to speak on camera. They denied having called Mr. Martinez, saying his number is not in their database. But the FOP confirmed to us that the donation slip he received in the mail asking for the money he had pledged came from that fundraiser.

A spokesman for Community Financial Services said its employees never misrepresent themselves as police officers, but they also don't tell callers they are paid solicitors unless they ask. An expert on nonprofit fundraising say that can be a problem.

"I think it's important that nonprofits think clearly about what would happen if people think they've been duped. That is clearly a risk that nonprofits face when they do this," said Professor Brent Never, who teaches nonprofit leadership at the University of Missouri Kansas City.

Never said it's not unusual for nonprofits to hire for-profit companies to collect money, but he said it's a particularly troubling practice for police because they are in a position of power and callers may feel uncomfortable saying no.

Those donating also need to know that the call center used by the FOP keeps 60 percent of every dollar it raises.

Why does the FOP Lodge 50 use them? Lee's Summit Sgt. Rick Inglima, who heads the lodge, said the lodge uses the money to pay for programs like Shop with a Cop, which provides toys to underprivileged children.

He said the FOP couldn't do as much good in the community if it wasn't for the donations. Last year, the FOP received $1700 in donations from the call center.

After Inglimia became aware that Mr. Martinez wanted the phone calls stopped and was on the no-call list, Inglimia said he immediately contacted the fundraiser to make sure he wasn't bothered again.

However, a week later Mr. Martinez got a donation slip in the mail from the same fundraiser asking to send the money he had pledged over the phone. This time he plans to ignore it.