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Greene County bingo charity examining political donations, $33 million payment

An attorney for TS Police Support League charity said the organization is reviewing political donations that ultimately went to the county sheriff.

(STOCK PHOTO)

A Greene County bingo charity is working to determine if donations it made to a political action committee were improper, and also examining a $33 million payment it made to a Jasper business to manage electronic bingo machines, an attorney for the charity said. 

Tommy Gallion, an attorney in Montgomery, said that TS Police Support League, a registered 501(c)(3) charitable organization that operates bingo gaming at The Palace casino in Greene County, had retained the services of a tax attorney to review its political donations and payments for “conducting bingo” operations. 

“They’re looking at those (the donations) and seeing what needs to be done,” Gallion said. “I don’t believe that any of it was illegal, but I wasn’t hired at that time. ” 

APR reported last month that state officials were investigating several donations made by TS Support League to a political action committee organized by an attorney who has represented Greene County Sheriff Jonathan Benison. The PAC’s sole recipient of donations was Benison.

Under federal tax law, 501(c)(3) organizations cannot participate in political activities and can lose their tax-exempt status if they violate that rule.

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill said his office reviewed the donations in question and found “several problems.” Merrill said at the time that his office had already been in contact with the Alabama Attorney General’s Office and the Alabama Department of Revenue and was in the process of forwarding the information to them. Merrill said he felt confident that both entities would conduct investigations. 

TS Police Support League could have another issue, however. On its 2020 990 tax form, the charity reports a payment of $32,979,354 to Starlite Solutions in Jasper, and it lists as its reason for the payment “management bingo machines/operations.” 

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The constitutional amendment that allows bingo to be played in Greene County, though, specifically reads that “a nonprofit organization may not pay consulting fees to any individual or entity for any services performed in relation to the operation or conduct of a bingo game.” The amendment also forbids nonprofits from contracting with outside entities to operate bingo games. 

Gallion said he had not personally reviewed the payment to Starlite. 

“I can tell you that these are honest people and if they did this it was a mistake,” Gallion said. “We have retained a tax attorney to review these matters. I wasn’t hired when this happened.” 

Attempts to reach Benison have been unsuccessful. TS Police Support League president Sheila Smith declined to answer any questions about the charity’s finances and instead directed all questions to Gallion. 

Starlite Solutions is also a bit of a mystery. Gallion said he was unfamiliar with all aspects of the payment to Starlite, since he wasn’t hired at the time. The Alabama Secretary of State’s Office has no record of a business registered in that name in the state. And the address listed on the charity’s 990 leads only to a post office box in Jasper. 

It’s also unclear what penalty, if any, would be levied against TS Police Support League charity if it were found to be in violation of the terms of the constitutional amendment. The amendment states that a violation of the terms could result in a Class A misdemeanor.

Written By

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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