Type: Case Studies
Date: 06/23/2021

Taft IP Litigators Protect a Charity

Philando Castile worked for the St. Paul public school system (SPPS) for more than fifteen years, providing food nutrition services to hundreds of students during his tenure. The children adored Philando (or “Mr. Phil” as they called him); so too did teachers and parents.

In July 2016, Philando died after being shot during a traffic stop.

In his honor and memory, Philando’s mother Valerie Castile established a legal charity — the Philando Castile Relief Foundation. To respect Philando’s legacy of generosity and kindness, the foundation provides charitable fundraising services to help victims who have been affected by gun violence and difficult police relations, including preparing meals, providing funeral attire, and counseling grieving families. The foundation also fundraises for other social causes, including erasing lunch debt for Minneapolis and St. Paul public schools.

The Challenge

Professor Pamela Fergus at Metropolitan State University started a fundraiser called Philando Feeds the Children. The campaign relied upon crowdfunding and raised approximately $200,000.

Taft in Action

In June 2019, Taft attorneys Kristine M. Boylan and O. Joseph Balthazor Jr. wrote a letter to the professor asking her to disclose the full amount of funds raised by the Philando Castile Feeds the Children campaign and to confirm, in writing, that she distributed all the funds to SPPS nutrition services. On the foundation’s behalf, Taft conducted an investigation and gathered key information and evidence. For example:

  • Taft contacted SPPS Nutrition Services and discovered that it only received a fraction of the monies raised by the Philando Feeds the Children fundraiser.
  • Concerned about the missing money, Taft wrote the professor another letter in September 2019, again requesting an accounting of the campaign.
  • Taft contacted Metro State University, requesting that the university help the foundation access a full accounting of the campaign.

The professor and the university refused to comply. 

On Jan. 7, 2020, the foundation filed a formal complaint with the Attorney General’s office.

Results and Impact

On June 3, 2021, the Attorney General filed a lawsuit against the professor for misappropriating fundraising money for personal use. The Attorney General alleged that more than $120,000 of money is missing from the Philando Feeds the Children campaign.    

That same day, Ms. Castile appeared at a press conference alongside Attorney General Keith Ellison and shared her story. The press release is available here; the press conference is available here.

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