A representative of a humanitarian organization promised to solve Glendale's financial problems with loads of money during a City Council meeting this week and Mayor Dave Weaver was excited about the offer.
"Free money, can't turn that down," he said, directing city staffers to gather more information about the group.
But optimism quickly turned into skepticism at City Hall.
"When something sounds too good to be true, it usually is," said Councilwoman Laura Friedman by phone a few days later.
Curtis Holland, a volunteer leader of the H. Martin Foundation, proposed a partnership between City Hall and the Los Angeles group, which also has roots in Indonesia, that involved footing Glendale's bills. However, it's become apparent the organization has a checkered past.
"I'm here to reach out to you, the leadership of Glendale, in an effort to bring a solution to the economic problems of your city; and that solution would come by and through the H. Martin Foundation," Holland said during the council meeting.
He added that his organization wanted "to provide 100% funding for all the city's various programs and projects that would provide services and create jobs."
Holland also proposed building the H. Martin Global Community Center of Glendale, which would provide a variety of humanitarian services.
In July, the foundation made similar promises to Claremont, Upland and Montclair during their own oral communication periods at city council meetings.
The group isn't on the IRS' most recent list of tax-exempt organizations and, in 2003, its business license from the Secretary of State was suspended by the Franchise Tax Board because it never filed a tax return, said Franchise Tax Board spokesman Daniel Tahara.
In 2000, after a representative of the foundation proposed depositing assets tied to a former Indonesian president in a major Japanese bank, a financial arm of the Japanese government launched an investigation, according to Kyodo News Service.
The city of Vallejo has had its own run-ins with the H. Martin Foundation. In 2010, Vallejo's mayor sent a cease-and-desist letter to officials at the organization, which had been using photos and a video of him as promotional materials after Vallejo leaders met with foundation representatives.
Holland didn't return multiple phone calls to speak about the foundation's troubles.
When asked if he wants staff to continue reviewing the foundation even if it has a blemished reputation, Weaver gruffly declined to comment further other than saying that he had turned the matter over to staff.
"It's in their ballpark," he said.
But Councilman Ara Najarian said he didn't want city staff wasting their time, or for the city to fall prey to a potential fraud scheme.
"It didn't look very legitimate to me," Najarian said, adding that he did an Internet search on the foundation on his iPad as Holland spoke about grand plans for creating jobs and providing humanitarian assistance.
"It just doesn't make sense to me that they're going to give unlimited funding," Najarian said.
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