I am one of two coordinators of a Community Watch Program set up last year in a privately owned trailer park in Oxford County, Maine. Not only was I appointed a coordinator but I was also appointed treasurer and currently hold $300 which was collected from various fund raisers the members of the former Community Watch engaged in. This money was for the benefit of the CW and all members of this community. (We were going to buy signs, reflective vests and possibly flashlights). Unfortunately, the CW has been disbanded due to divisiveness from within and without and our last meeting only drew a half dozen members. It was proposed at that meeting that the funds be used for a neighborhood barbecue or the like. I feel as though this is a misuse of the funds and that any neighborhood barbecue would only be attended by a distinct minority. My question is this. I feel as though I have a fiduciary responsibility to see that these funds get used for their intended purpose. I would like to turn the money over to a community service that would benefit all members of the community in as closely an allied purpose as possible. I have considered the Oxford County Police Department as a distinct and likely candidate. Do you see any adverse legal ramifications for doing this?
1 Answer from Attorneys
Thank you for your inquiry. As coordinator and treasurer, you have a special responsibility...known as a fiduciary agent of the Program. Conseqently, you have to conduct yourself in accordance with the high ethical standards and duties of proper handling of business and funds on behalf of the organization. If you have bylaws or other rules governing your organization, you should consult those first to see what you can do with the money. If you have a co-coordinator, you should also consult them. Further, if you have no guidance from bylaws or rules, it is safer to take the high ground and obtain a consensus by vote from the members. You have a great idea, but if any one person takes issue, you could find yourself personally responsible for the money.