COTTAGE GROVE, Ore. -- A volunteer for Special Olympics Oregon in Cottage Grove is demanding answers from the nonprofit’s CEO after $50,000 specifically meant for the Cottage Grove events appears to have gone missing.
Local Program Coordinator Carmen Dowell said the money came from the estate of Michelle Portmann, who died in 2011 after being hit by a car while riding her bike. Documents obtained by KEZI 9 News show that the money was from Portmann's estate and was intended for the Cottage Grove Special Olympics.
"This money should've lasted my generation, the next generation, and the next generation,” Dowell said.
Dowell said the money was put in an endowment fund and was managed by Special Olympics Oregon. Financial records show that as of January 2017 there were more than $50,000 in the account.
But on Aug. 1, Dowell said leaders from Special Olympics Oregon told her the account was never set up and they have no record of the money.
“It's just unfair, and someone needs to be held accountable for it,” Dowell said. “I feel they robbed ... they robbed us of our money and the athletes of the social networking that they do.”
After KEZI started asking questions to Special Olympics Oregon leaders about the money, Dowell said officials called her back and said they found $14,000 from the account. Dowell says she’s still wondering what happened to the rest.
In a statement to KEZI 9 News, Special Olympics Oregon CEO Britt Carlson Oase said the gift is referenced in their 2012 to 2016 audited financials, showing updated balances each year. The process of their 2017 audited financials is underway.
Michelle’s sister, Marsha Yandell, said her sister loved Cottage Grove and everyone in it. She wants to find out what happened to the money.
“She believed the people that she was giving the money to would be good stewards of her bequest,” Yandell said. “I don't know what happened. I don't have enough facts. I just hope there is a thorough investigation and that this account is made whole.”
Dowell said she works with around 40 athletes every year, and they serve the Creswell community as well.
She and parents of Special Olympics athletes plan to hold a protest at Opal Park in Cottage Grove Wednesday, Aug. 8, starting at 4 p.m. Dowell is not encouraging people to donate to Special Olympics Oregon, saying they can’t be trusted. She plans to host other events for the athletes outside of Special Olympics.