Question: Bylaws purposely being withheld?

At the beginning of the school year I asked for a copy of bylaws, due to things not running correctly. Was told by the president, she did not have them, and said everything was a mess from the past president. Asked again a month later, still same story. (mind you she had stated many times, that this was her show and she was doing what she wanted, and was just going to wing it} Finally approached the Principal and VP and they gave an old copy from 97, After the 3rd month of her in office she admitted in meeting she had some, but did not produce them. Numerous more times stated they did not pertain to us, they where old, and again she was going to wing it. Now a member from PTO in our school district is going to help her make new ones. My question is the bylaws she has are from 2014, still not produced and has refused to do so? What can I do to get my hands on them....reason being, I believe illegal voting has been being done, and that is how she got into office. Teachers are allowed to vote via ballot in their mailbox, and not attend meetings, but parent has to be at meeting to vote among many other things, how can I fix this? Or should I just walk away? Also refused to show financials and even stated it was none of our business.

Asked by Basicwin



Advice from PTO Today

lharac writes:
Hi, Basicwin -- this sounds like a frustrating situation. If the parent group is a 501(c)(3) organization, or is acting like it is (for example, telling people their donations are tax-deductible), then it is legally required to provide these documents, like the Form 990 IRS forms, the bylaws, and the budget, upon written request.

Have you been keeping a paper trail of your requests to the President and VP? If not, that would be a good place to start. Make your request in writing, with the date on it, and email a copy plus leave a hard copy at the PTO's school mailbox and with the principal. Try to keep the tone civil -- for example, state your request for these documents in simple language without bringing up your suspicions of what's being done incorrectly. If you don't receive any response, you could follow up in the same way with a second letter, and this time copy the letter to the principal AND the superintendent, school board, or other school district office. Again, make sure to include the date on the letter, and reference your first letter and the date.

If you still don't get the documents, your third step is to contact the office in your state that oversees tax-exempt organizations. This varies from state to state but it's often the comptroller or attorney general's office. Ask them what the process is for obtaining a copy of an organization's bylaws.

Another thing you can do, even while all the rest is going on, is to speak up during every PTO meeting. Make a public request for the bylaws at every meeting until you get them. It's really important not to get into mud-slinging or accusations, your stance is simply that you want to review these documents, you've made repeated requests for them, the group is legally obligated to provide them upon request, and you want to understand why that isn't happening. -- Lani @ PTO Today

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