Scottsdale Police Association Gives Controversial Telemarketer The Boot
During the holidays last year, the Police Officers of Scottsdale Association, or POSA, got caught up in a media firestorm just before its 12th annual Christmas Shop With A Cop event for underprivileged children.
It started when KJZZ first reported that two-thirds of the roughly $1 million a year POSA had been raising for needy kids went to a for-profit telemarketer. Only a small fraction of that money, sometimes less than 10 percent, actually went to the kids.
But since then, POSA, a 501(c)5 labor organization, has been cleaning house.
“We’re trying to be as transparent as possible” said John Heinzelman, POSA’s new president. “The things that were in question, we’ve gotten rid of. We’ve jettisoned some of the programs, some of the fundraising, and the relationships we’ve had to start anew.”
Heinzelman replaced former POSA President Jim Hill, who resigned in May and also retired from the Scottsdale Police Department after a 20-year tenure to accept a new job at the Maricopa County Community College District’s Department of Public Safety.
A few months prior in January, his wife, Cindy Hill, had stepped down as executive director of POSA Outreach, the 501(c)3 charitable arm of POSA.
The Hills have said their resignations were not related to the telemarketer controversy.
When the Hills left, Heinzelman said they stopped the telemarketer, PFR Promotions, from making calls for donations on its behalf.
Earlier this month, the telemarketer was evicted from the office space it had subleased from and shared with POSA in downtown Scottsdale.
Darlene Long, POSA’s new treasurer, said the typical rules, record-keeping and oversight one would typically expect to see in a nonprofit just didn’t exist at POSA in the past. But that’s all changing now.
“We have a bookkeeper, we have a separate accountant to do the taxes obviously and to go over things, make sure that we’re in line with best practices like we should be, keeping track of everything like it should be tracked, so that we’re not in a position again where we can’t answer specific questions about our books,” Long said. “But we didn’t have any of that in place before.”
Heinzelman said they’re essentially starting from scratch as an organization, so there are still a lot of things the group’s new leadership is figuring out. But their ultimate goal is to downsize, refocus on being a labor organization, do away with several charitable events, and the events they do keep will be overhauled and limited to serving just Scottsdale.
“We’re Scottsdale officers, we’re here to work with Scottsdale youth, with Scottsdale issues and maintain that rather than being a county-wide or statewide agency,” he said. “That’s just not who we are. We’re more of a local grassroots organization.”
But for Jim and Cindy Hill, it’s just the opposite.
They’ve started a new charity called the Arizona Law Enforcement Outreach & Support, or Arizona LEOS, and they hope to take it statewide with many of the same events they hosted at POSA plus create new programs along the way.
KJZZ caught up with the Hills earlier this month at a back-to-school drive at Scottsdale Stadium hosted by the City of Scottsdale and the Scottsdale Unified School District.
Cindy Hill, who made a $73,000 salary at POSA in 2013, according to tax records, said she isn’t taking a paycheck at their new organization, nor is anyone — at least for now.
“Whenever it becomes that big, we may have to pay someone to run it … if becomes a full time job,” Jim Hill said. “But right now, it’s a labor of love.”
When Cindy Hill first announced her resignation earlier this year, she said forming a statewide law enforcement charity had been a goal of hers for a while, but it was still painful to leave POSA.
“What we do from our heart just turned into a disaster because originally of what was said,” she said. “I was hurt, because it really is something we do because we want to do it. And that’s why we continued on with the program, even though we decided he would retire from Scottsdale and now I left POSA, because it’s something we are passionate about.”
They said they’ll operate off of community donations and corporate sponsorships, although it's still too early to tell what kind of revenues they'll need.
While they said they won’t do telemarketing anymore and have no plans to pair up with PFR again, they’re definitely taking the Shop With A Cop concept with them.
But back at POSA, Heinzelman and Long said they want a clean break across the board, so this year may be Shop With A Cop’s last Christmas for them.
“I think we’re blessed to have this opportunity to reinvent ourselves back to what the founders of POSA really wanted it to be,” Long said. “And a clean break with PFR and a clean break from the way that things were maybe handled in the past.”