Whidbey school fundraisers say they were stiffed on proceeds

The foundation says it raised $7,000 but hasn’t received the money from Brown Paper Tickets.

Organizers of a South Whidbey fundraiser have yet to receive the money raised during an event held earlier this year.

The South Whidbey Schools Foundation hosted a four-chef cooperative dinner on March 2 that raised just over $7,000 from ticket sales.

Chefs from Gordon’s on Blueberry Hill, Prima Bistro, Saltwater Fish House & Oyster Bar, the Braeburn and Bloom’s Winery & Bistro volunteered their time to cook meals for the evening.

Sales from tickets were slated to go towards funding classroom grants to enhance student education, the mission of the school foundation.

But members of the board’s foundation said the funds were never received from Brown Paper Tickets, a Seattle-based company that was used to organize the event’s ticket sales.

South Whidbey Schools Foundation Treasurer John Riley said the check for $7,105.77 the company owed the foundation was voided on April 6.

Six months after the March event, the foundation has not seen a single penny from Brown Paper Tickets.

“It’s been hugely frustrating,” Riley said.

Shelly Ackerman, the foundation’s president, described the loss as a “double whammy.” Restaurant chefs and owners had dedicated their time and food to the fundraising event just before being hit by the impacts of COVID-19.

“It will be a miracle if we ever get paid,” she said.

Riley said the amount of money raised at the event was about 15 to 20 percent of the foundation’s annual budget.

“Think of it as seven South Whidbey teacher grants that we can’t fund this year because of this,” he said.

Ackerman agreed.

“It’s a bummer that we don’t have all the funds that we thought we would to do that,” she said.

Riley added that the foundation has used Brown Paper Tickets in the past without a problem, but suspects because of the timing of this year’s event in March, right before a lot of other events were cancelled, there was a cash flow issue.

He has filed complaints on behalf of the foundation to the Better Business Bureau and the Washington State Attorney General’s Office, and is considering joining others who have already begun the process of filing a class action lawsuit against Brown Paper Tickets.

Dan Jackson, a communications consultant with the Washington State Attorney General’s Office, said the office has received 533 complaints from around the country regarding the company.

Brown Paper Tickets did not respond to the Whidbey News-Times for comment by press time.

An email sent by president and founder William Scott Jordan on Sept. 17 to the entities still waiting for a refund from the company thanked them for their patience.

“We continue to work through the backlog of event payments, event cancellations, and refund requests,” the email stated.

“While we can’t offer an estimated timeline for your specific payment at this moment, our team has been and continues to pay event organizers and initiate full refunds to ticket holders (including BPT service fees) on a daily basis.”

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