REHOBOTH -A local fundraiser for disabled police officers and Somerset Police Chief Joseph Ferreira are at odds over whether the funds are actually helping area cops.
Ferreira is warning his community not to support the Disabled Police Officers Assistance Foundation, which is running a local campaign from 140 School St. in Rehoboth, the home of campaign director Patrick Kane Jr.
Kane counters that the funds hire retired police officers with degrees in mental health fields for a free 24-hour counseling service for disabled cops and their families nationwide.
Somerset police investigated the foundation after a Somerset merchant ready to donate $1,000 called Ferreira to question the group's legitimacy. A retired state police captain also called, after an out-of-town gold and silver company he works for was solicited.
The foundation's nonprofit parent group, the Disabled Police Officers Counseling Center of Niceville, Fla., generated $627,054 in revenue in 2006, according to its 2006 Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax, which Ferreira provided. The group claimed $509,069 in "professional fundraising fees."
"They say the funds have been spent locally. We haven't been able to prove that 10 cents has been spent on a Massachusetts disabled police officer," Ferreira said Tuesday.
Kane said, "Has any money gone to a disabled police officer? No, but we're providing a free counseling service."
"However, the service is not free to run," he said.
"We've had cops who have called who have been suicidal," he said.
Kane said he also ran the campaign from an office in his home in 2007.
Kane said the attorney general's office will soon have documents from the 2007 campaign. The organization formed during the 1990s, he said.
"This is the first problem we've had," Kane said. "We're legitimate, and people can say whatever they want."
Ferreira said Somerset police tried to reach Kane through the phone number on the solicitation letter for several days before issuing the warning. Police instead reached a recording indicating the voice mailbox was full.
Kane said he was unaware of the calls until reading a press report Tuesday. He said he has "not been answering any calls that don't come up on my caller ID."
Ferreira said he received a call Tuesday from someone claiming to work for Kane "as recently as this week, in North Providence."
Ferreira said he also called the foundation's Niceville, Fla., parent group and the person he spoke to refused to provide any names of Massachusetts officers helped by the foundation, "not a one."
"Clearly, well over 90 percent of the money is going to administration," Ferreira said.
Ferreira said he has contacted Rehoboth Police Chief Norman Miranda about the matter.
Kane said that "if the organization was illegitimate," it wouldn't have its income tax exemption status.
MICHAEL GELBWASSER can be reached at 508-236-0439 or at email@example.com.