Kelly Thomas, as most everyone in Orange County and many across America now know, was a mentally ill homeless man who died after he was beaten by Fullerton police.
The community convulsed. Officers face trial on charges of murder, manslaughter and excessive force. Mental health professionals search for ways to serve those who may not want help. And, tapping something deep in human nature, people try to wring hope from tragedy: For many, the Kelly Thomas Memorial Foundation represents such hope.
Founded in 2011 by Kelly Thomas’ father, Ron Thomas, the foundation is a “non-profit organization dedicated to assisting the homeless men, women and children of Orange County,” its website says. “By collaborating with other charities and agencies, KTMF seeks to educate communities on the issues and needs surrounding the growing homelessness in our communities while providing direct relief to those in need, through the collection and distribution of donations, clothing and food.”
Art shows and benefit concerts in the heart of historic Fullerton marked the one-year anniversary of Kelly Thomas’ death in July, and more than $10,000 was raised. But squabbles have broken out over how the money is handled, and we at The Watchdog have been unable to confirm that the foundation has tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service, the only agency that can grant such status.
We did not find the foundation in the IRS database of exempt organizations, current through mid-August. We did not find it via the helpful IRS representative at its telephone hotline for exempt organizations (877-829-5500), who can access organizations approved since mid-August.
We are well aware that there may be glitches with paperwork and computer systems and the human use thereof – so we asked Ron Thomas and his attorney, Garo Mardirossian, to clarify the issue for us. We asked them to forward the application that the foundation filed with the IRS seeking exempt status (Form 1023), as well as the IRS’s letter of determination, but none has been forthcoming.