The McPherson City commission this month approved a memorandum of understanding that will address fraudulent activities during a time of crisis or natural disaster.
The memorandum is a partnership between the city and the McPherson County Community Foundation as a response to events that transpired after the shooting last February in Hesston when a gunman went on a rampage that killed three people and injured 14 others.
“After the Hesston shooting, [McPherson Police] Chief McClarty did an after-action review along with [McPherson Fire Department] Chief Deal over lessons learned from that,” explained McPherson’s city attorney Jeff Houston, speaking at the city commission’s weekly meeting.
“And one of the things that came out is after a mass casualty or natural disaster event, we know that people tend to be very generous in those,” Houston continued. “But that tends to bring out the fraudsters and the scammers.”
Houston said that within one hour of the Hesston shooting, scammers had set up a fraudulent Go Fund Me page on the internet to take advantage of the generosity of local citizens wanting to help those in crisis.
“The KBI and people who work in this area are recommending that communities take some proactive steps, and that’s what this memorandum of understanding is,” Houston explained.
In the event of another local crisis, the city can now inform the public immediately that any donations can be sent directly to the McPherson County Community Foundation.
“Best practices now is within one hour of the start of the event that the city publicly puts out where donations should be sent,” Houston explained. “Because the criminals tend to move fairly quickly in these situations and we need to have that constantly repeated.”
Beyond the necessary direct costs, the Foundation will not be charging the city for their services in handling the donations.
Houston elaborated, “They will receive them, account for them, issue the receipts, invest, and then disperse as the city requests.”
This will take the burden off of the city staff, who doesn’t have time during times of crises to manage donations as they come in. This memorandum of understanding with the foundation will allow donations to be managed immediately and properly and will hopefully prevent scammers from gaining a foothold in the event of another local crisis.
“They’re going to take that administrative burden off of us and have it in place should something like that occur,” said Houston. Then he added, “We all hope this just gathers dust.”
The McPherson City Commission approved the memorandum July 5.