Watch CBS News

$2 million in Marshall Fire donations go to local governments in Colorado

$2 million in Marshall Fire donations go to local governments in Colorado
$2 million in Marshall Fire donations go to local governments in Colorado 03:13

Nearly two years after the Marshall Fire in Colorado, the organization in charge of donations is under fire after giving some of the money it received to local governments. Community Foundation Boulder County approved a $2 million grant last month for Superior, Louisville and Boulder County.

Marshall Fire CBS

The money -- which is about 4% of the $43 million raised -- is meant to help defray some of the expense the local governments incurred from debris removal after the fire, which most insurers don't cover.

But Superior Mayor Pro-tem Neal Shah says charitable donations shouldn't cover it instead, "We all have generous hearts and we poured the money into the phone number on the screens and it went to the Community Foundation and we assumed that it was going to go directly to those most affected."  

Shah says he was shocked when he learned the foundation was giving Superior $495,000 of the donated money.

"The people who donate to a charity, they want to see that money go directly to homeowners or those who are affected. I'm not a fan of money going to a charitable organization, a 501c3, and then coming to a government entity," he said.

Community Foundation CEO Tatiana Hernandez says while the vast majority of donations have gone to individual homeowners, the Foundation's goal she says is to help the entire community recover after a disaster. That includes local governments which, in this case, paid about $4.5 million for debris removal not covered by FEMA or the state.

The aftermath of the Marshall Fire in Boulder County. CBS

Hernandez says the foundation wanted to ensure homeowners wouldn't be stuck paying the tab.

"In a disaster, charitable funds operate differently than a GoFundMe, for example. It's important for us to take the needs of the individual but also the collective. Debris removal is a great example of there are individuals that are affected but there is also an entire community that is affected."

Shah worries those who donated won't see it that way.

"Every charitable organization has a board and the board has to be cognizant of who made those donations and make sure that they adhere to the wishes of those who donated," he said.

While the money ultimately helped fire victims, all three local governments say they would have covered debris removal regardless. Shah says the $2 million could have helped victims with other expenses.

A total of 90% of Marshall Fire debris removal was covered by FEMA. But Boulder County fronted all of it -- $30 million-- and is still waiting for reimbursement while it tries to recover what it can from insurers.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.