(CN) – A federal judge in Manhattan denied the Ronald Regan Presidential Foundation’s request to dismiss a complaint that it misused donations, or to transfer the case to Los Angeles Federal Court. Richard Stills said he donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to establish education programs at the foundation’s Presidential Learning Center, but the center improperly used it for “general purposes.”
The California-based foundation claimed that New York is not the proper venue to hear the case because the four programs it supports, the Ronald Regan Presidential Library and Museum, the Presidential Learning Center, the Center for Public Affairs and Air Force One Pavilion, are all based in California.
The foundation said it does not advertise in New York, but Stills, a New York resident, claimed it solicited more than $600,000 from him through 21 donations between 1997 and 2005. He said the foundation began soliciting donations from him by sending letters to his New York City apartment.
Stills said that in 2000, Steve Forbes, a board member at the foundation, invited him to a fund-raising lunch at his New York apartment. Stills donated $100,000 that day to help establish the Presidential Learning Center. He said the defendant continued to solicit donations from him and he gave an additional $100,000 in each of the next three years, all meant to establish education programs at the center.
In 2002, the executive director of the foundation told him that his donations alone had singlehandedly enabled the educational programs to exist, the complaint states.
Stills said he intimated to the foundation that he was thinking about stopping his donations, which led to the foundation chairman’s writing him a letter that “begged him to reconsider,” according to the complaint.
Stills said the defendant solicited another $200,000 from him that was earmarked for the learning center. But Stills said the money was not used for the agreed-upon educational programs but for general purposes.
U.S. District Judge Gerard Lynch denied the foundation’s request to change venue. The judge said not only is Stills a New York resident, but the foundation’s executive director and development director traveled to New York to solicit money from him in person, and sponsored fund-raising events in the city to which Stills was invited.
The foundation argued that most of its documents are located in California, making it a more convenient location for trial.
“In this era, when document are easily portable, the location of documents and records is not a compelling consideration,” Judge Lynch wrote.
Lynch also he was not persuaded by the foundation’s assertion that however it used the donations in California “bears no relationship whatsoever to any alleged solicitation in New York.”
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