SALEM — Former House candidate Amanda La Bell will be barred from running a nonprofit for five years and faces a possible $20,000 fine under an agreement reached last week with the Oregon Department of Justice.
The Assurance of Voluntary Compliance stems from complaints last year that La Bell mishandled finances of The Rebecca Foundation, her Bend-based national nonprofit diaper bank.
The agreement was reached April 11 when it was approved by Stephen K. Bushong, the presiding judge of the Multnomah County Circuit Court. The court handled the settlement because the Department of Justice Charitable Activities Section, which investigated La Bell, is based in Portland.
The Bulletin had requested information of any action taken by the Department of Justice regarding The Rebecca Foundation allegations. Kristina Edmunson, communications director for Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, emailed the settlement to The Bulletin on Friday.
The release occurred a day after the Department of Justice confirmed La Bell would not be prosecuted over a separate complaint that she made a false statement in the 2018 general election Voters’ Pamphlet.
La Bell was a candidate for House District 54, which includes most of Bend.
Erick Ward, La Bell’s Bend-based attorney who responds to all media inquiries to La Bell, could not be reached for comment Friday.
In the court filing, the Department of Justice alleged La Bell’s handling of The Rebecca Foundation violated Oregon laws governing charitable solicitations, unlawful trade practices and non-profit corporation rules.
“The Department alleges Respondent Amanda La Bell has breached statutory and common law fiduciary duties,” the filing said. “It alleges La Bell failed to observe corporate formalities, failing to provide prudent fiscal management, using charitable assets for undocumented personal expenses, and failing to maintain appropriate records.”
Instead of prosecuting, the Department of Justice reached a settlement with La Bell. In exchange for La Bell’s agreeing to its terms, the filing “shall not be considered an admission of a violation for any purpose.”
La Bell is required to submit a “dissolution plan” for The Rebecca Foundation.
“Respondent La Bell will dissolve or close any existing organization’s incorporation status, delete any Rebecca Foundation-associated social media and email accounts, close any active Foundation financial (banking and PayPal) accounts, and cooperate with the Department to distribute any remaining assets held by the Foundation,” the settlement states.
La Bell must give any remaining assets to a charity approved by the Department of Justice. As a last resort, the assets would be taken over by the attorney general’s office.
The settlement bars La Bell from any “fiduciary role” — a position that handles finances — in any charitable or non-profit organization for five years from the date of the settlement.
If after five years, the Department of Justice is satisfied La Bell has fulfilled the terms of the agreement, she can make a written request to assume a fiduciary role. Before any request is approved, La Bell is required to undergo a department-approved course of training in “non-profit governance and management.”
The settlement includes a $20,000 fine. However, the state agreed to suspend collection of the fine if La Bell complies with the agreement. If the Department of Justice finds that she has not complied, La Bell would have to pay the fine and could face an additional $25,000 for each violation.
La Bell, who moved to Bend in 2017, came to public attention last summer when she ran as the Working Families Party nominee for House District 54. Democrats rallied to her campaign in August after the party’s official nominee, then-Bend city councilor Nathan Boddie, was accused in June of sexual harassment.
In September, a Republican PAC filed a complaint with the secretary of state claiming La Bell made a false statement in the official Voters’ Pamphlet. The pamphlet listed La Bell as having a bachelor’s degree from Valdosta State University in Georgia.
La Bell said the claim was an inadvertent error in the rush by the Working Families Party to get her biography into the Voters’ Pamphlet. La Bell has said that by the time she discovered the problem, the deadline for changes to the pamphlet had passed.
Democrats withdrew their support of La Bell and she suspended her campaign. However, she remained on the November ballot.
In October, the secretary of state referred the alleged campaign law violation to the Department of Justice for possible criminal action. After a six-month investigation, the department confirmed Thursday it would not file criminal charges over the Voters’ Pamphlet complaint. It referred the issue back to the secretary of state, which said it would continue to investigate. The secretary of state could levy fines against La Bell, give her a letter of warning, or drop the matter.
Ward, La Bell’s attorney, said Thursday the allegation “has been devastating to Ms. La Bell personally, professionally and financially.”
In the aftermath of the Voters’ Pamphlet complaint, volunteers with the Rebecca Foundation filed complaints with the Department of Justice claiming La Bell had mishandled donations to The Rebecca Foundation. The non-profit diaper bank, which La Bell created in 2012, had also been based in Tennessee and Texas, where La Bell previously lived. Most of the group’s board of directors resigned in October over the possible financial irregularities.
La Bell shut down the foundation’s website in October, saying the group had no funds. The Department of Justice settlement states that La Bell informed authorities in November that she had closed The Rebecca Foundation.
Before Friday, the Department of Justice would not confirm La Bell was under investigation, saying only that it was “reviewing” the complaints about The Rebecca Foundation.
— Reporter: 541-640-2750, firstname.lastname@example.org