The former CEO of toy-giant Hasbro Inc. says he never signed the 2009 annual report for a prominent nonprofit group that runs scholar-athlete programs for teenagers throughout the world, despite the fact that his signature is on the document.
Alan Hassenfeld, who has financially backed the nonprofit's initiatives for years, said that someone told him about the document last summer. The form, which was filed by the Institute for International Sport with the Rhode Island secretary of state's office in December 2009, includes his signature and his name in print. His title is listed as "chair."
"Regrettably, the signature on the document was not mine," Hassenfeld said Thursday.
Further, Hassenfeld said he never served on the institute's board of directors and has never attended a board meeting.
"I've never seen minutes of a meeting," he said.
Through a public relations firm, West Hartford resident Daniel Doyle Jr., the executive director of the institute, declined to comment.
The institute, which runs programs such as last year's World Scholar-Athlete Games and World Youth Peace Summit at the University of Hartford, is based at the University of Rhode Island.
In addition to Hassenfeld, Olympian Anita DeFrantz and former Penn State University football coach Joe Paterno have been among those listed as members of the institute's board through the years. The board's current president is listed as Michael Healy of Ireland.
Hassenfeld is not the only person who is confused about the institute's board of directors.
Robert Fiondella, the former chief executive officer of The Phoenix Companies, is listed on federal tax forms as being on the board from at least 2003 to 2008.
"I was not on the board," Fiondella said Thursday from his home in Florida, explaining that he had only spoken at an institute symposium once. "I don't think there was a formal board of directors. It was pretty much run by Dan."
Although Hassenfeld has given the institute money, he has also served as chairman of the world games and the peace summit. Those positions are different than serving on the nonprofit's board, he said.
The institute is currently facing unprecedented financial problems. It is dealing with mounting debt, failed real estate ventures and an audit over its use of a $575,000 government grant.
The audit was conducted by Rhode Island's acting auditor general, and the report, which was released Wednesday, says the institute could not account for how it spent the grant money. It also stated that the institute should improve its financial accountability.
The report was forwarded to Rhode Island state police by Rhode Island House Speaker Gordon Fox.
Earlier this week, Doyle, a former head basketball coach at Trinity College, said the institute intends to sell its two buildings on the URI campus to raise cash to pay down its debt. He also said that his family has made what might be a multimillion-dollar commitment to the institute to help it regain its financial footing by the end of the year.
After learning about the 2009 annual report, Hassenfeld said he spoke to Doyle and asked for an explanation.
"I have not gotten one," he said.
Hassenfeld said he became involved with the institute because he believed in Doyle's vision and said Thursday that he was heartbroken to see what has become of the organization.
Through the years, Hassenfeld has given the institute several large grants for various projects, and most recently, he helped bail the institute out of a financial predicament. For the world games to go on at the University of Hartford last summer, Hassenfeld said he had to sign a letter of guarantee. This past fall, he had to pay the $500,000 bill because the institute could not do so.
Hassenfeld said he first realized that the institute was facing some issues when the final preparations for the world games were being made. The institute never received the grants it was expecting, and he said he guaranteed the payment for the games because he had helped secure some of the event's speakers. He said he also didn't want to disappoint the teenagers who had signed up to participate.
Since late spring, Hassenfeld said he has paid closer attention to the institute and its finances, and he said he was carefully checking his own financial records to determine where his money went.
He said he will fulfill any remaining financial promises he made to individuals and banks on behalf of the institute. There are one or two individuals who spoke at the world games and peace summit, but haven't been paid yet, he said.
Hassenfeld said that he was told that the events' top speakers, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, have both been paid, but that he does not have that information in writing.
"Anything I do now in dealing with the institute, I want to have in writing," he said.