Connecticut residents who wish to visit the state's tall ship Amistad will have a hard time figuring out its whereabouts. Those wishing to donate to Amistad America Inc., the nonprofit that owns the ship, will run into a similar dead end.
The website for the organization is nonexistent. A call to its phone number rings, then disconnects. The Internal Revenue Service has suspended its nonprofit status because it hasn't filed taxes in three years.
This is unacceptable. Connecticut taxpayers paid to help build this ship. They still provide 80 percent of the ship's annual funds, according to the Department of Community and Economic Development.
In the last four years, Connecticut has paid $1.4 million to support Amistad America. The organization's disarray is a disservice to the state that supports it.
The ship's mission is to educate people about the celebrated case in which Africans headed for the slave market seized control of the Amistad in 1839, were captured and later freed by the U.S. Supreme Court. But how can this ship educate anyone if it's so hard to find?
DECD Deputy Commissioner "Kip" Bergstrom counsels patience. "They are turning the corner," Mr. Bergstrom said of the organization. In July, it will announce a new executive director and a television production deal that will help support the ship.
Mr. Bergstrom says the ship is diversifying its funding so it won't rely so heavily on the state. He assures that it will be in Connecticut for activities in July and August.
The state attorney general's office, which says Amistad America has been "cooperative," has given it until the end of this week to file paperwork to reinstate its status as a nonprofit.
For all the money the ship gets from the state, it's not too much to ask that it have a functioning website, a working phone, a schedule, transparency and fundamental information about what is going on with it — not to mention that it file tax returns on time.
It is hoped that Mr. Bergstrom's faith is not misplaced. Amistad America, however, has to do a lot more than just mollify state officials.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun