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DOJ says donated dollars for pool should be more transparent

Thousands of dollars donated over decades to one day get Scappoose its own community pool should be moved from private accounts to a more-transparent city fund, the Department of Justice ruled.

After receiving a complaint in March regarding concerns over the state of donated dollars held in a longtime “pool fund” created in 1970 by a now-deceased community pool advocate, state Department of Justice investigators began looking into how money was being maintained in both the Bob Casswell Memorial Swim Pool Fund and by the mostly defunct Scappoose Swim Council.

Last month, the department recommended the city maintain the nearly $34,000 in the Casswell Pool Fund and the $14,300 held in the Swim Council account so the money could be more closely monitored.

“Despite the absence of formal documentation, no one disputes the public and charitable nature of the Pool Fund,” the DOJ states in a report. “The evidence of community support of the fund is abundant.”

In 2010, the city of Scappoose purchased 2.5 acres for nearly $674,000 at the corner of Havlik Road and 2nd Street for the expressed purpose of building a pool complex in the future. But at the moment, there are no specifics from the city for even how to begin that lengthy process.

The city continues to maintain its own restricted pool fund of nearly $230,000, funds resulting from a 1998 pool construction tax that has since been halted. City Manager Jon Hanken said Scappoose pays $54,000 a year for the future pool site.

Hanken said there is no reason for the city to not transfer to its pool fund the $34,000 held in the Casswell Pool Fund and the $14,300 maintained by the city’s Swim Council, a registered nonprofit in the process of disbanding.

Moving the money to a public account will go a long way to improving transparency about the thousands donated by residents over the years, Hanken said.

“You’ve got enough people who are asking, ‘What happened to this?’” he said. “It starts to take on rumors of its own.”

Since at least as early as the 1950s, city leaders and residents have regularly tried to kickstart plans to get the town a pool facility. Swimmers often travel to St. Helens to use its popular, but sometimes crowded, Eisenschmidt Pool.

The Casswell Pool Fund was created in 1970. For years, the community donated money to that fund, named after swimming advocate Bob Casswell who died during a city meeting on the same subject. His widow, Vivian Urie, who maintained the fund, died in 2008. Since then, her daughter has watched over the money.

The Department of Justice said it found no evidence of mismanagement in regards to the pool funds. However, the department did state it was “not appropriate” to hold money raised for the purpose of building a public pool in a private bank account.

“But since the death of Vivian Casswell Urie, it appears the interest and ability to continue fundraising for the Fund has diminished dramatically.... It seems most appropriate to transfer the Pool Fund to another organization dedicated to building a public pool in Scappoose,” an August DOJ report states.

The department previously investigated the dormant Swim Council in 2009 for failure to file an annual financial report required for nonprofits under state law. The DOJ verified that all the money in the council’s fund was accounted for.