A Stanly County man whose charitable foundation named for Zahra Baker came under fire this week from some donors says he is not misusing the money given in memory of the slain Hickory 10-year-old.
Jim Julian, whose Zahra Claire Baker Memorial Foundation is aimed at helping childhood victims of serious disease and their families, was criticized by some donors who complained to two Charlotte TV stations about the way the foundation is being operated.
Julian admits not being experienced at running a charitable organization but says he is not misusing money.
Im an average guy who was outraged over what happened to Zahra and wanted to do something good for the world, says Julian, 55, who operates a plumbing company.
The foundation, started by Julian in January 2011, is named in memory of a young girl who disappeared from her Hickory home a little more than two years ago. Parts of her body were found weeks later in Caldwell County, and her stepmother pleaded guilty 13 months ago to second-degree murder. She was sentenced to between 15 and 18 years in prison.
Julian said Wednesday he promptly responded to a State of North Carolina request about the foundations financial operations, returning a report to the Secretary of States office the day after he received it. Julian posted a photo of the envelope containing the report on the foundations Facebook page.
Liz Proctor, a spokeswoman for the Secretary of States office, says the request sent to Julian is not an investigation.
It was a request for information, a fairly routine procedure.
She said the state will determine whether Julians foundation will require a license. State law requires licenses in many cases, but Proctor said, there are a number of exemptions to that regulation.
We will determine whether the foundation gets an exemption, she said.
If a license is required, the Zahra Claire Baker Memorial Foundations annual financial report will be published each year.
That way, people who might want to donate can look at the report, determine how much is actually spent on charity, and determine if they want to give, Proctor said.
Julian says running a charity has been tougher than he expected.
There were some surprises along the way, he says.
Two people who said they donated to the organization complained this week to WBTV. Shelley Alger, a Massachusetts woman, told WBTV she has donated almost $1,000 but is unhappy with the results. Seth Loven, of Morganton, told WBTV he lost faith in Julian when donations did not help build a park at Hudson Elementary School, where Zahra Baker attended for a year.
Both Alger and Loven say they were pressured by Julian to donate a charge that Julian denies.
Julians website says the foundation will build the park. Julian says he plans to make that happen once enough money has been raised. He did not provide specific amounts on how much money the foundation has received but said those details will be given to the Secretary of States office. However, he indicated the total was less than $5,000.
Julian also was criticized in one TV report for using foundation funds to buy gasoline and purchase pizza at a convenience store.
I needed the gas to drive my truck and raise money for the foundation, he said. As for the pizza I bought a slice at a store that had donated money to the foundation.
Julian said the report he sent to Raleigh shows the foundation has spent money to help others. He says he sent a seriously ill girl and her family to the North Carolina Zoo, and he says he donated a laptop computer to a child in the mountains. He also said he has paid travel bills so some ailing children and their families could receive chemotherapy. The Observers Maria David and WBTV contributed.