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Friday, September 5, 2014

The NHIAA is not transparent

Telegraph Editorial

The NHIAA held its annual Media Day last week, and some members of the press showed up.

Shows what a bunch of suckers we are. ...

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The NHIAA held its annual Media Day last week, and some members of the press showed up.

Shows what a bunch of suckers we are.

This is an organization that subsists mostly off taxpayer money, either directly or indirectly, then claims it is exempt from the state’s transparency law.

The nonprofit organization had income in excess of $1 million in 2012, most of which was derived either directly from public schools – in the form of dues and fees – or from athletic events featuring taxpayer-funded school teams.

Either way, the NHIAA is raking in money from schools, teams and the state’s athletes, largely on the backs of taxpayers.

Nashua High School North, for instance, paid a little more than $6,025 in NHIAA dues last year, while South paid $5,750. All told, the organization took in $285,000 in dues from member schools – the vast majority of which are public.

The organization also reported that it received just shy of a quarter-million dollars’ worth of free use of public facilities. Plymouth State University, which hosts some championships, doesn’t charge the NHIAA to use its facilities, but UNH does. The NHIAA will pay UNH $5,000 to host this fall’s championship football games in Durham.

The NHIAA reported in its most recent tax returns that it took in more than $835,000 in money from programs it runs. A lot of that money came because people paid to watch their sons, daughters, grandchildren, etc., participate in NHIAA contests featuring taxpayer-funded teams.

Some of it was used to pay former executive director, R. Patrick Corbin, an annual salary of $130,000.

The NHIAA maintains that it is not subject to the state’s transparency law, though it does file the same federal tax returns required of all nonprofits.

But that’s not the same as being transparent.

When we asked back in April how much the NHIAA paid Southern New Hampshire University to hold state basketball tournament games there, attorney Samantha Elliot said, “Because 91-A does not apply to the NHIAA or to Southern New Hampshire University, the NHIAA does not intend to produce any information about their arrangements.”

They apparently only give out information that is required to be made public by other organizations.

The “91-A” Elliot referred to is the state’s transparency law, formally called the “Right-to-Know Law.”

Elliot’s reasoning was that, because the organization also has some private-school members, that exempts them from the law.

That’s a bogus argument.

The majority of NHIAA schools are public. The majority of the organization’s 18-member board of directors is made up of principals, athletic directors and other school officials on the public payroll. In fact, it’s not clear from looking at a listing of the NHIAA board that there are any private-school representatives on it.

It’s kind of ironic that the first goal of the NHIAA’s strategic plan for the next five years is to “transform the perception and reputation of the NHIAA and its support of education-based activities with stakeholders and supporters.”

They could start by embracing the fact that they are a quasi-public organization that is subject to the Right-to-Know Law.

Unless, of course, they are willing to give up all that taxpayer money and hold tournaments featuring only the state’s private schools.

Members of the NHIAA board – which include a New Hampshire Department of Education representative and Hudson and Campbell administrators – should work to change the NHIAA’s secretive policy and abide by the transparency law.

Because taxpayers deserve to know how their money is being spent.