Aurora theater shooting: Rich Audsley, donation adviser, reflects on funds for past massacres

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Last month, ex-United Way official Rich Audsley got involved in the committee responsible for disbursing millions of donated dollars to the families of those who were killed or injured in the Aurora theater shooting. He was brought on as a special adviser because of his expertise in an area he never thought would become one of his specialties: negotiating donations after mass shootings. Audsley, who helped oversee funds for victims of both the Columbine and Virginia Tech shootings, tells us there are patterns in the challenges and controversies.

We spoke with Audsley earlier this month in response to concerns from family members said they were still getting nowhere with donations during a lengthy press conference. Their main complaints: Families of the twelve deceased victims and dozens more injured did not have a strong voice in the process, which was dragging on without much transparency.

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Sam Levin
Victims' families talk to reporters in their first press conference.
Last week, in response to some of those concerns, Governor John Hickenlooper, joined by Audsley, announced that the committee charged with disbursing the funds would bring on Ken Feinberg, who also has extensive experience in mass tragedy funds, to act as a special master for the Aurora shooting donations.

This last-minute announcement came after the families held another press conference expressing their dismay with the 7/20 Recovery Committee, an ad hoc group of mainly Aurora officials overseeing the funds. Feinberg, who was involved in 9/11 and BP oil spill efforts, told reporters he expects the controversy and frustration to continue -- and that it comes with the territory.

Audsley, who has become a main spokesman for the 7/20 Committee, expresses similar sentiments.

When we spoke to him, we also asked for his reflections on how this process compares to past negotiations he's been involved with -- and he says that while each situation is different, there are some commonalities.

"My experience with these kinds of funds is you can never act fast enough," said Audsley, who worked for United Way for thirty years in roles that included a vice president position. "There's always pressure to get it done as fast as possible. However, you need to be thoughtful in the way that you go about making these decisions."

He explained that the complex process requires time. "You can never do this fast enough to satisfy the individuals that are looking to be compensated.... Despite that, you only have one chance to do that...and you have to make sure you have all the information...even if it creates controversy that you're moving too slow."

Continue reading for more comments from Audsley.


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