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Author Accuses Proposed Richmond Coliseum Developer Of ‘Self-Dealing’ In Amended IRS Complaint

Richmond Coliseum
Richmond Coliseum (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM)

Last month an IRS complaint was filed against the proposed developers of the new Richmond Coliseum. Now, NH District Corporation is also being accused of violating self-dealing laws. 

Author Jeff Thomas amended his IRS complaint on Monday, asking the federal agency to look into NH District Corporation’s sale of the naming rights to the new downtown arena it wants to build. The non-profit released its tax returns last month  after questions from VPM about Thomas’ complaint. The tax filings showed Dominion Energy gave the developer $1.5 million for “potential future marketing opportunities,” but NH District Corp. has not said whether the payment was for naming rights. 

If it is, Thomas said that could violate state and federal law because the utility company’s CEO Tom Farrell is also part of the development team.

“Dominion Energy is inextricably bound to [NH District Corp.] through financial relationships and overlapping personnel including, its CEO/leader, general counsel/secretary and a former spokesperson,” Thomas said in a written statement.

According to IRS rules on self-dealing, a non-profit foundation cannot transfer its assets to a “disqualified person.”The agency defines a disqualified person as  “any person who was in a position to exercise substantial influence over the affairs of the applicable tax-exempt organization.”

Jeff Kelley, a spokesman for NH District Corp. denied the new allegations on Monday.

“Once again, this complaint contains false and misleading information and it has no merit,” Kelley said. “NH District Corp.’s activities are consistent with applicable 501(c)(3) laws and regulations.”

A Dominion spokesperson also denied any wrongdoing, saying its CEO is not a part of the specific non-profit company that received the payment - NH District Corp. Farrell heads a separate organization tied to the project called NH Foundation.

There is, however, considerable overlap in the organizations. CT Hill, the previous president of NH District Corp., and Marty Barrington, the current president, both sit on the NH Foundation board.

Thomas’ original citizen complaint filed with the IRS in November contained other allegations, including that NH District Corp. is violating IRS rules about non-profits participating in political lobbying and is providing a substantial benefit to private individuals. 

Thomas, who is not a lawyer, said he believes the non-profit is not operating as a charity, but more like a lobbyist.

“Based on all publicly available evidence, this organization is actually a political organization that is set up to benefit private investors by passing legislation through Richmond City Council,” Thomas told VPM at the time.

As a matter of policy, the IRS does not comment on the status of any third-party complaints filed against a taxpayer.