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ASU Foundation:
Innovative or Odd?

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Fulton Center, home of the ASU Foundation for A New American University.
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According to Francis’s LinkedIn profile, she is ASU Foundation’s
director for strategic advancement, and has been an employee since 2002. ASU Foundation said Francis has been paid to be the executive director of Center for the Future of Arizona, a nonprofit founded by former ASU President Lattie Coor, since 2003.

However, Francis is not listed anywhere on the organization’s tax returns between 2010 and 2012. This coincides with both changes to IRS nonprofit reporting requirements in 2008 and to backlash ASU Foundation received in 2008 over Francis’ employment.

In 2008, a report by the Coalition for Justice at Great Western Erectors questioned whether Francis should be employed by the foundation because her husband served on the board of directors.

In its 2005-2006 tax return, ASU Foundation reported that Francis was being compensated $160,000 for working 65 hours a week at the foundation as a “senior adviser.”

The 65 hours a week was in spite of the fact that she was (and still is) the executive director for Center for the Future of Arizona. According to that organization’s tax returns during 2005 and 2006, she was being paid $114,000 for working “as required.”

Although Francis’s current biography listed on the Center for the Future of Arizona’s website states she “is engaged in all aspects of the center’s work,” and her LinkedIn profile says she has been executive director of the organization since 2002, she has not been listed as a salaried employee in Center for the Future of Arizona’s tax returns since 2009.

In response to the 2008 report, ASU Foundation’s then-president and CEO, Johnnie Ray, told The Arizona Republic that Francis’ salary was justified because “spouses of all university presidents spend an enormous amount of time promoting the university's interests.”

“There are some universities that choose to pay spouses of presidents as employees and some who do not," Ray told the Republic. "We are one who chooses to pay because we believe that service has a huge return on that investment."

About two months after the controversy from the Coalition for Justice at Great Western Erectors report and the subsequent media coverage, ASU Foundation filed its tax return for 2006-07. Crow was no longer listed as a member of the board of directors and Francis, who was previously mentioned among the highest paid employees, was also absent.

For the next two years, Crow and Francis were listed in the tax returns with Crow on the board and Francis as working 40 hours a week as a “special advisor,” receiving about $175,000 in compensation. She was one of the organization’s five highest-paid employees.

But Crow and Francis disappeared from the reports again for two years, beginning in 2009-10. They then both reappeared in the ASU Foundation’s 2012-13 filing, with Crow again listed on the board of directors, but Francis now listed under a section that outlines business with interested persons instead of as a top-paid employee. Both have been in the same sections ever since.

In a written statement, ASU Foundation said it believes that its organizational materials and tax forms have been clear about the roles played by Crow and Francis, though it conceded that both were erroneously missing from some tax filings.

“In cases where past IRS Form 990s do not describe these roles in a consistent manner, the organization will work with its accounting team to publicly disclose related information and amend it where applicable,” the organization said.

ASU Foundation did not answer specific questions relating to the errors, the changes in how Francis’ employment was disclosed or why the explanation for Francis’ salary was different in 2008 than it is now.
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