Aurora theater shooting victims' families ask state officials to investigate donation fund

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Update below: Families representing eleven of the twelve people who died in the Aurora theater shooting have asked Colorado's attorney general and secretary of state to investigate Community First Foundation and its website, GivingFirst.org, which collected more than $5 million in donations to the Aurora Victim Relief Fund. The letter says the organization used names and photos of deceased victims to solicit donations without permission.

Update, October 9, 4:50 p.m.: The Community First Foundation has issued a statement in which it pledges to engage an independent auditor to audit the Aurora Victim Relief Fund after the money has been disbursed. Here's the statement:

Community First Foundation is honored to serve our community and the victims of the Aurora theatre shooting by faithfully processing money donated to the Aurora Victim Relief Fund. All money collected, either online or via check/money order, is and will continue to go directly into the Aurora Victim Relief Fund.

Community First Foundation realizes that every donation is a gift. We are obligated to honor the intentions of our donors by delivering each gift to the recipient identified by the donor. When we cannot meet the donor's expectation, we return the money to the donor.

Of the $5.4 million raised by the Aurora Victim Relief Fund, $100,000 was distributed in the form of matching grants to COVA, Aurora Mental Health and eight other nonprofits working with victims. The donors who contributed this $100,000 asked us to use their donations in this way to encourage others to give. An additional $405,000 has been distributed from the Aurora Victim Relief Fund to the victims in the form of cash assistance. The remaining funds will be distributed by Special Master Kenneth Feinberg.

Feinberg is an expert specializing in compensation disbursement. He has been retained by White House administrations to run the 9/11 fund and BP Oil Spill settlement. He handled the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund at Virginia Tech University and was recently hired by Penn State University to settle personal injury claims related to former Coach Jerry Sandusky.

Community First Foundation realizes our transparency maintains faith - not only in the giving process - but also among the organizations and individuals who are the recipients of that generosity. To that end, the board of directors of the Community First Foundation is engaging an independent auditor to conduct an audit of the Aurora Victim Relief Fund. This development has previously been announced to our donors, to the news media and to the victims. This audit will cover all transactions and will commence upon the distribution of the fund.

Community First Foundation is honored to participate in this endeavor to help our community heal from the painful events of July 20th. We look forward to cooperating with the Fund distribution process.

For additional information regarding this matter, please refer to the following statement from the Governor's Office:

"Community First Foundation, like so many other organizations and individuals, stepped up at a time when our community was in crisis. Community First Foundation agreed to handle the Aurora Victim Relief Fund without taking any fees or reimbursement for their costs. We have complete confidence in the integrity of the organization and how it has handled the fund. Many victims and their families have already benefited from the foundation's efforts and even more will benefit in the coming weeks."

Also, the Colorado attorney general's office has confirmed that it received the letter from the victims' families but cannot confirm or deny that an investigation is underway.

Continue reading for the original post, which includes the families' letter.

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