A Brief History of the Partnership's Abuses
Presently, the Virginia State Police (VSP) are investigating the 501c 3 Giles County Partnerships for Excellence (GCPE) and its Executive Director, Howard Spencer. The GCPE was/is operating as a federally tax exempt organization and, according to their own documents, they are dedicated solely to “Educational Enrichment”. Furthermore, from 2002 through 2009 they operated in Virginia as a “Public School Foundation”. The VSP’s investigation was motivated by a complaint filed by the Concerned Citizens of Giles County (CCGC). The complaint was the culmination of years of research by CCGC membership into what appears to be the illegal and unethical activities of the GCPE.
Our organization, the CCGC, was originally formed in response to the announcement that the GCPE was planning to place toxic fly ash on a piece of low lying land located in the flood plain of the New River in Giles County Virginia. A timeline of our struggle to stop this project is documented on this website under “Projects – Cumberland Park Project” and under the “video” tab. Early on our group repeatedly asked – what is a tax exempt Public School Foundation doing in the toxic waste business and what does fly ash have to do with education? We asked the Giles County School Board those very questions.
The Giles County School Board has categorically stated that they never discussed or approved the project (which is a Code of Virginia requirement for Public School Foundation projects). However, our investigation of the GCPE didn’t stop with the School Board’s denial of a relationship with the GCPE. Our continuing research uncovered a plethora of other large scale projects operated by the GCPE that were totally unrelated to our schools in any way. Below is a list (and brief description) of GCPE activities that we have documented as being unrelated to supporting our Public Schools. Please note that the list below does not include most of the issues that we raised with the VSP – but are just examples of the GCPE’s large scale projects unrelated to their mission of “Educational Enrichment”.
1) Flipping real estate for a profit : The GCPE rented and then sold the Pearis Theater and they also sold property located at Morris St. in Narrows VA. The profits were reinvested into the purchase of the land for the Cumberland Park toxic fly ash Project.
2) The GCPE operated a construction/construction training program under the name “Hammering in the Hills ” (HH). The HH program was supported with hundreds of thousands of tax dollars (including hundreds of thousands of our local tax dollars). Our research discovered that the HH program was a “ghost entity” – the program is not registered with the IRS, the Virginia Department of Taxation, the Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulations or the Virginia State Corporation Commission. Furthermore, the HH program has no by-laws or meeting minutes. Interestingly, when we approached the Giles County Board of Supervisors with our concerns about the County’s support of the HH program the Supervisors decided to stop funding the program.
It is of note: Our organization also uncovered that the GCPE’s Executive Director, Howard Spencer (while also serving as a Giles County Board of Supervisor member) secretly sent county employees to do repairs on the GCPE’s investment property located at Morris St. in Narrows, VA. This property was repaired with our tax dollars and then sold for profit. The profits were used towards the purchase of the land for the toxic fly ash site and the county was never reimbursed.
3) The GCPE also operated the Glen Lyn garage from 2006 –until late 2013. The School Board has not received any of the profits generated from the garage nor have any students ever trained there.
In sum, since 2006 the GCPE has administered projects that involved millions of dollars including hundreds of thousands of our local tax dollars. Yet the Giles School Board has reported that they have received very little support from the GCPE since 2006. In fact, the School Board has reported that the GCPE has only given a small donation to a biology class and paid for a newspaper subscription for a class at Narrows High School in the last six years. Additionally, the School Board reported that in 2007 the GCPE was paid to administrator a public school grant that was written by a third party. That grant was completed years ago.
Our research shows no indication that the GCPE has ever reported these unrelated business ventures to the IRS or the Virginia Department of Taxation. Sadly, the Giles County Government has failed to make any effort to collect the misused tax money from the GCPE and the HH program. Although, our Giles County officials have placed their relationship with Howard Spencer above their responsibility to the citizens that they serve, we feel confident that the Virginia State Police, IRS, and the Virginia Department of Taxation will hold the GCPE Executive Director and its board members accountable for their actions.