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STAND without Steele?

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STAND without Steele?

The STAND Foundation — a non-profit founded by State Representative Tracy Steele for the expressed purpose of offering leadership training for young adults in Arkansas — may be looking for a new executive if Steele prevails in his runoff election for North Little Rock mayor against Joe Smith on Tuesday.

After the announcement of his mayoral candidacy in August, Steele responded to a query from the Times's Max Brantley that, if elected, he would not hold a paid position with STAND, a declaration he reiterated in a phone interview Monday. Asked about what that would mean for the leadership of STAND going forward, both Steele and Kasey Summerville, president of the STAND board, said that they would "cross that bridge when we come to it."

According to the foundation website, STAND's main initiative is a leadership institute that offers four day-long training sessions, Internet-based training, and online mentoring to participants. Steele stated that the leadership institute had more than 100 participants per year.

Steele has served as executive director for STAND, an acronym for "strive toward a new direction," since its founding in 2006. According to publicly available tax documents, more than 40 percent of the donations raised by STAND between 2007 and 2010 went to Steele's salary. In 2007, STAND received $114,860 in contributions and paid Steele a salary of $50,346; in 2008, it took in $157,573 in contributions and paid Steele $65,154; in 2009, it took in $156,984 in contributions and paid Steele $77,000, and in 2010, it took in $190,910 in contributions and paid Steele $77,000. The foundation reported that Steele, who was also serving in the legislature at the time, worked 55 hours per week for STAND.

Steele is currently on leave from STAND to focus on the campaign, but stated that he directly contributes to program services in his role as executive director. "I have direct involvement with most every aspect of STAND," he said, "including speaking and doing leadership training, getting the speakers we've had, and taking out the trash." He added that any questions about his compensation should be directed to the board, but Summerville declined to comment on Steele's salary.

The Times has previously reported that Steele has sought contributions for STAND from corporate representatives who lobby the legislature. Steele said that there is "absolutely not" a potential conflict of interest.

"We do everything by the rules and regs since I've been there and that's how it will always be," he said. "The STAND foundation will stand."

Non-profits are not legally required to disclose their donors and Summerville said that "we release what we're required to release." Steele said that any decision about releasing donor information was up to the board, but argued that the donors themselves "do not want their information public — it's a private contribution. ... I don't understand why I am held to a different standard than other non-profits throughout this community, this state or this nation."

In addition to the possibility of losing its CEO, STAND also has a hole to fill on its board. Carol Langston has stepped down as vice-president of the board, reducing the board to two members, Summerville and Treasurer Michael Williams. Summerville said that STAND does not yet have a replacement for Langston but that the board is working on it.

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