Peoria Journal Star

September 21, 2006

Bielfeldt Foundation increases donations
$628,400 handed out to 41 groups in 2005

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Thursday, September 21, 2006

WASHINGTON, D.C. - With its founders still entangled in a lawsuit alleging mismanagement of funds, the Bielfeldt Foundation contributed $628,400 to 41 central Illinois charities in 2005, more than the $586,400 given out the year before, according to its recent financial report.

It's still a far cry from the $1.2 million that the foundation gave away to local charities as recently as 2002, before its assets shrank dramatically under the Bielfeldt family's management.

Under new financial management, the foundation's assets grew to $14 million in 2005 from $13.7 million in 2004.

Meanwhile, a 2004 civil lawsuit filed by the Illinois Attorney General's Office against

foundation founders Gary and Carlotta Bielfeldt continues in Cook County Circuit Court. Lawyers in the case met briefly before a judge Wednesday to continue the discovery process, an exchange of information and documents.

A representative from the Attorney General's Office indicated that discussions about a potential settlement would be postponed until after all the information has been shared. A status hearing was set for Dec. 13.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan sued the Bielfeldts in December 2004, seeking recovery of more than $30 million of the foundation's assets allegedly lost in risky investments and $9 million in fees and commissions paid by the foundation to Gary Bielfeldt, his son, David, and their investment firm from 1996 to 2002.

Bielfeldt family members resigned from the foundation board in 2004. Gary Bielfeldt's wife, Carlotta, remains as executive director, for which the foundation paid her an annual salary of $84,900 last year. The foundation reported financial management fees of $90,958 in 2005, with its largest account held with Smith Barney, a division of CitiGroup Global Markets Inc.

Last year, the foundation's single largest contribution was $400,000, which was the last installment of a $5 million pledge for the Peoria Park District's RiverPlex.

This year, the foundation board plans to contribute $500,000 as part of a $5 million, 10-year pledge to the planned Glen Oak Zoo expansion, said Douglas Stewart, who was named the foundation's president in 2004.

Stewart, regional president of National City Bank in Peoria, said he is pleased with the results of the foundation's new diversified investment strategy.

"We want to make sure the fund continues to grow and we can easily service our commitment to the zoo, and then we will continue to look at other opportunities in the community," Stewart said.

"I think the foundation itself is operating not only within its bylaws but in a manner in which the Attorney General's Office would like to see these foundations operate, and we hope that we can continue to make additional commitments in years ahead."

The foundation also donated $75,000 to the YWCA. It was the last installment of a five-year commitment for the YWCA's building expansion project in Lakeview Park, Stewart said.

Another $20,000 went to the Methodist Medical Center Foundation for nursing scholarships, part of a five-year pledge that ends in 2008, Stewart said.

The Heart of Illinois United Way received $20,000 as part of its annual fundraising campaign. The Center for Prevention of Abuse was given $15,000 as a one-time donation to its capital campaign. Eureka College received $15,000 as part of a $75,000 multiyear pledge that ends in 2007, he said.

In addition, Lakeview Museum received $10,000 as part of a four-year grant to pay for part of the planning for the new Downtown regional museum. The last payment will be made this year, Stewart said.

Other large contributions included $12,000 for The Salvation Army, $10,000 for the Alzheimer's Association and $5,000 for Peoria Academy.

Dori Meinert can be reached at (202) 737-7686 or dori.meinert@copleydc.com. Mike Ramsey can be reached at (312) 857-2323 or cnsramsey@aol.com.