Whitney President Says Can't Support School District Projects

According to previous informal discussions between representatives of Sheridan School District 2 and the Whitney Benefits foundation, which has spent millions of dollars over decades on local projects, there's a difference in opinion as to whether the foundation can fund school projects.

In letters recently acquired by Sheridan Media, we've learned that the attorney for the school district says the foundation guidelines will allow support for school district projects, but the Whitney board president says they do not.

In a letter dated December 30, Attorney Tracy Copenhaver, representing the school district, says, the will which the foundation is based on says the fund is to be used for charitable purposes, namely education, and for public benefits.

So, he says, it's clear the primary charitable purpose for the Whitney Benefits fund was education and not limited to a college education. His conclusion is that Whitney Benefits can fund educational programs for the youth of Sheridan County provided by schools other than the Sheridan community college, for which much of the foundation's money has been spent.

But, in response, Whitney Board President Tom Kinnison says, in a letter sent to the school district board Chairman Richard Bridger just last week, the school district does not qualify. He says, in the letter, that the school district's attorney's conclusion is incorrect.

Kinnison states: “The plain language of Mr. Whitney's will, read fairly in the context of its stated purposes, does not provide anywhere for the payment by Whitney Benefits of any direct grants to local school districts.”

Kinnison goes on to say, in the letter, that: “While there are general references in the Whitney will to establishing a fund for education and public benefits ... in the community, the will makes it clear that those purposes are limited as set out in detail in the will.”

The letters are attached below.

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tom_kinnison-letter.pdf209.46 KB
copenhaver_letter.pdf144.86 KB