FAIRHOPE — A Fairhope-based nonprofit has been found to have seemingly misused Baldwin County tax money derived from a tobacco tax bill over the last 20 years. The Baldwin County Abuse Network …
FAIRHOPE — A Fairhope-based nonprofit has been found to have seemingly misused Baldwin County tax money derived from a tobacco tax bill over the last 20 years.
The Baldwin County Abuse Network Incorporated/Southwest Alabama Abuse Network, called SWAAN, was designated as a 501(c) 3 entity and established in September 2000. Recent reviews of financial records by Gulf Coast Media have revealed allegations that the nonprofit diverted funds originally designated for community welfare to executive salaries.
In 2003, the state of Alabama enacted HB27, stating that the first $80,000 of the revenue from the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products in Baldwin County be directed to the Baldwin County Rescue Squad, with the next $40,000 intended to support SWAAN's initiatives.
Tax records spanning from 2003 to 2020 reveal that most of the funds intended for SWAAN went toward the executive director's salary. In the initial years, notably 2003, 76.95% of the distributed money was used to pay the executive director. Between 2006 and 2015, tax records indicate that the executive director declared receiving no funds from the organization's coffers. Then, from 2016 to 2020, the director allegedly took home an average of 56.7% of the incoming funds.
Rachel Marcinko is listed on the tax records as executive director. Cliff McCollum, director of constituent services for the Baldwin County Legislative Delegation, said she resigned a few months ago. Her LinkedIn profile reflects that change.
Her LinkedIn and the Fairhope Middle School staff directory list her as a school social worker for Baldwin County Public Schools.
Freshman state Rep. Donna Givens, R-Loxley, was introduced to the tobacco tax funding through Baldwin County District Attorney Robert Wilters. In response to these revelations, Givens took legislative action.
She sponsored HB483, which was passed June 1. The amendment to the bill reallocated the $40,000 of tobacco tax funds intended for BCAN Inc. to the creation and maintenance of a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner program within the office of the district attorney of Baldwin County. The new legislation aims to ensure that the funds are redirected toward a program that directly benefits the community.
"When the research into this was all said and done, it made perfect sense to make this move that reallocated the existing tobacco tax revenue to a new account that would go to support the development and maintenance of the Sexual Abuse Nurse Examiner program," Givens said.
She emphasized that the decision to reallocate funds was aimed at providing essential support for victims of sexual abuse across the county.
"I think it's just an example of good government when we're able to take existing revenue sources and move them around to better serve the people of our county," she said. "This SANE program is something Baldwin County needs to be able to help victims of sexual abuse across our county, so anything we can do to move forward in a positive direction is a good thing."