NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut's U.S. senators called Friday for an independent audit of more than $11 million in donations received in response to the Newtown school shooting to determine what donors wanted done with the money.
The Newtown-Sandy Hook Community Foundation released a plan this week to give $7.7 million to the families and survivors and to have committees decide on uses for the rest of the money. A spokesman said decisions on how to spend the money were based on donor intent and the foundation tried to balance short-term and long-term needs.
Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy wrote a letter calling for the foundation and United Way of Western Connecticut, which helped raised the money, to implement an audit to determine how to divide the money based on donor intent. They said they appreciate the complexity of the issue and the good intentions of those who worked with the foundation, but share concerns that the determination that 70 percent of the money was meant to benefit victims' families was not reached through a verifiable, comprehensive analysis of contributions.
"An independent, third-party audit is necessary to maintain trust and credibility," the senators wrote in the letter, which was obtained by The Associated Press. "We understand the difficult task of determining the proper allocation of these charitable funds. Critical conclusions such as concerning donor intent must be more transparent and accountable."
Patrick Kinney, the foundation spokesman, said he had not seen the letter and could not comment on it. But prospective donors were told the fund was undesignated, meaning it could be used for broader purposes, Kinney added. He has said the remaining money will be used for services to support the needs of all those affected by the shooting, which doesn't exclude anyone who has already received money.
Twenty first-graders and six educators were shot to death in December at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown before the gunman killed himself as police arrived. He also shot his mother to death at their home before going to the school.
At a public hearing last week, some questioned the process for arriving at the $7.7 million for the families and why all the money wasn't going to the victims. Some victims' families have said dealing with questions over how to distribute the money has caused them more pain.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy weighed in with a letter last week expressing frustration with the process and calling for an independent party to handle the remaining nearly $4 million in donations. Malloy said he hopes families are not precluded from receiving additional money.
Kinney countered that the fund was created to help those most affected by the shooting, including families, surviving students and first responders, and is best managed by local people who understand their long-term needs.
Under the plan released this week, families of the 26 children and educators killed will receive $281,000 each. The families of 12 surviving children who witnessed the shooting will each get $20,000. Two staff members who were wounded will get $75,000 each.