Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Non-Profit Organizations and Community Organizations: Beware of Political Campaign Invitations

The Internal Revenue Code and United States Department of Treasury regulations impose "restrictions" on the participation of 501 (c) (3) organizations, religious congregations, educational institutions and community organizations in "political activities". Corporate officers should exercise care and caution in distributing documents produced and printed by political parties, candidates and causes.

For example, a local state senator contacts a neighborhood association leader providing job information for hiring by a "specific" political campaign. The job announcement advertises paid phone bank positions.

To protect its 501 (c) (3) status, a community organization would arguably act in its tax-exempt operational requirements by posting a "NO ENDORSEMENT STATEMENT" on any such materials.

Here is an example of a template disclaimer for a specific political campaign's phone bank job announcement:

Good Neighbors Association (GNA) operates under a 501 ( c ) (3) organization umbrella and does not endorse political campaigns, causes or candidates.  GNA is distributing this employment announcement solely for the purpose of informing residents about employment opportunities.

If a 501(c) (3) organization board, officers, leaders or staff decide to inform organization members about volunteer OR paid opportunities on political campaigns, it is advisable that  board and staff members explain clearly that he or she is providing information in an individual role rather than official capacity.

Organizations would arguably protect such communications by carefully controlling the telephone devices, e-mail addresses, websites or other medium used to transmit messages.  Such controls are best used with integrity and honesty. Proceeding on the sides of "caution" and "restriction" is advisable. The appearance of endorsement can create legal issues for 501(c) (3) organizations and jeopardize tax-exempt status and continued eligibility for federal, state, local  and foundation grants.

The Internal Revenue Code and United States Department of Treasury regulations "allow" community organizations to "educate" members about election day information and voter registration.  Prior to statements by political candidates or about political issues at 501(c) (3) organization meetings,press conferences or forums a "NON-ENDORSEMENT DISCLAIMER" announcement is advisable.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Taking the Stress out of Purchasing Distressed Properties

Purchasing property which has been vacant, foreclosed or abandoned can be stressful and complicated. Consultation with a real estate attorney, cooperation with government officials and collaboration with community organizations can eliminate or alleviate the bureaucratic stress. Your decision to purchase a distressed property can make major benefits to a city, community and YOU.  A major key to your acquisition of a distressed property is your determination to distinguish clearly between allies and adversaries in the negotiation, acquisition, renovation and operation processes.


Meet with a real estate attorney to ask questions about your options for acquiring a distressed property.

Listen with an open mind about the legal requirements and restraints on your plans, priorities and purposes for the property.

Decide whether you will proceed with representation by an attorney or handle the matters on your own.

Once you retain an attorney, refrain from speaking with other parties. Other parties may sense your resistance and rebelliousness and take advantage of the weakness in the attorney-client relationship. Remember, your former allies may not have the position of adversaries in the negotiation and operation phases of your real property acquisition.


Federal, state and local laws regulate the purchase and usage of real property. The steps to accessing and acquiring real property require communication and cooperation with government officials including elected legislators, zoning administrators and planning department directors. Do not expect that government officials will cater to your priorities, budgets, wishes, visions, plans, ideas or priorities.

Keep a log of ALL contacts with government agencies. Record dates, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, meeting notes and follow-up goals.

Federal, state and local governments operate under laws, statutes, regulations and ordinances which advance public policies. Government agencies take into careful consideration the composition and concerns of current property owners, adjacent businesses and neighborhood residents.


Make contact with the local chamber of commerce, educational institutions and community organizations which promote the well-being and well-doing of the property address which you seek to acquire. Clearly determine your intended use of the property and its projected impact of the community. Zoning boards, planning commissions and grant funders will solicit input and often approval from community members.


For multi-dwelling and large scale properties, clearly and simply provide all interested parties with written outlines, structural diagrams and programmatic aims for the property you intend to purchase. Your plans will stall if interested parties are not in agreement with your purposes, plans and priorities. If you keep interested parties in the "dark" they may work to keep you "off the block".

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Word to Wise Clients: Your Lawyer Is Not Your Friend, Your Lawyer Is Not Your Enemy

The demands, doubts, debts and pressures of contested court cases and protracted negotiations cause some clients to mistake their legal counsel as an enemy or ally (friend). Clients often misidentify the opposition and misunderstand the rules of litigation. They feel apprehensive and respond in the defensive. They find the discovery process invasive and respond with evasive. They feel that the system is "unfair" and respond with insincere and unclear.

As a result clients, refuse to provide documentation, resist the court process and resort to challenging their legal counsel on points from content to format to deadlines for pleadings and proceedings. An onslaught of interrogatories, requests for documents, subpoenas and depositions can leave a client with thoughts and feelings of victimization, trauma and helplessness. Some clients rebel against their own hired lawyer and/or the court system under the seeming "search and seizure" of personal information. A client mayfeel that her or his life is an "open book" on public display and open to constant question.

In practice and actuality, "discovery" is the process which the legal system authorizes for parties on both sides of a matter to gather evidence prior to trial. A wise client works with her or his attorney rather than wasting brain power and billable hours in debating the court rules and defying the legal system.

Here is some wisdom for plaintiffs, defendants, petitioners and respondents involved in court battles:

1.   LISTEN to your lawyer's advice and recommendations.

2.   REFRAIN from challenging court process, procedures and policies about the content, format and time limits for court filings and documents.

3.   SUPPLY the information and documentation as your lawyer directs.

4.   LIMIT your the subject of your attorney-directed telephone calls, e-mails and correspondence to the specific details and substantive facts of your matter.

5.   KNOW that your lawyer has the duty to protect your legal rights not your personal feelings, beliefs and opinions.

6.   FOLLOW the court rules and assist your attorney with meeting deadlines with full information and disclosure.

7.   RESPECT the court rules by not contacting the court, opposing party or opposing counsel while you are represented by an attorney.

In all ways and at all times, address, communicate and correspond with your lawyers with the clear understanding that your lawyer is not your enemy and your lawyer is not your friend.