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Some theater victims want arbitrator to manage donations

AURORA, Colo. — Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and other lawmakers should use their influence to seize the $5 million worth of donations given to aid those affected by the Aurora theater tragedy — money that is currently being held by a private non-profit group.

That’s what some victims of the tragedy and their families said Thursday. In their minds, the money would be better-managed by an independent arbitrator.

Akin to a press conference the group held on over two weeks ago, Arizona resident Tom Teves, whose son Alex was among the 12 people killed in the July 20 shooting, spoke for the families Thursday. Despite the fact that the group behind him was smaller than the one  at the first press conference, and despite the fact that one of the group’s biggest demands — inclusion in the group that decides how donations are disbursed — has been met, Teves said the group isn’t satisfied.

Teves said this is because the families have learned that the Community First Foundation is able to keep the interest earned on the donations to the theater victims. In the press release he issued earlier Thursday, Teves indicated the non-profit is planning to use that money to foot the mental health care bills for victims. The families with Teves Thursday argued that the interest instead should go directly to them, and that local, state and federal governments should pay for all of their medical bills.

The crux of the matter, Teves said, is that the group of victims’ family members with him Thursday no longer trust the government-approved non-profit that is managing donation funds. 

“There have been two tragedies in Aurora,” Teves said. “The first was the theater shooting. The second is how the victims have been treated by the powers that be.”

Despite their disappointment, some of the victims’ family members are now members of the 7/20 Recovery Committee, which makes recommendations as to how the donation dollars are spent. That group issued a statement seeming to suggest that there may be family members who are more satisfied with the way the donation process is being handled now than the group who spoke Thursday.

“In fact, we have been and continue to actively seek input from all the victims injured and who lost family in this tragic event,” committee adviser Rich Audsely said in that statement.