Editor’s note: Answer Line is on vacation. Today’s questions and answers are from the greatest hits file.
QUESTION: I recently received a jury summons from Gregg County. My issue is the way they are returned to the county. The summons has our phone numbers, addresses, work information and our drivers license numbers. It is not sealed. It is sent in a postcard-type format, open to all to view and could enable someone to steal our identities. Surely we can register online, drop off in person or send back to the county in a sealed envelope.
ANSWER: It’s been a while since I received a jury summons, so I spoke to Britnie Minor, supervisor in the Gregg County District Clerk’s Office, to go over how this works. As she explained it, you’re not supposed to return the questionnaire you described by mail if you’ll be reporting for jury duty.
She said the sealed cards, which are a little bit bigger than a postcard, arrive in people’s mailboxes with their name and address on the outside. Once opened, one side of the cards contain questions for potential jurors, including name, phone number, address, age and place of employment.
“The juror is asked to fill it out and bring it to court,” Minor said. “For no reason do we want them to fill it out and mail it to us.”
The other side of the card contains the reasons a potential juror might be exempted from serving. People claiming one of those exemptions should not fill out the questionnaire on the other side. Sign and date the card, and mail it back. A bar code on the card provides the county the necessary information it needs without sending any personal information through the mail.
Minor said there have been occasions when people fill out the questionnaire on the card and mail it back. In those situations, the clerk’s office holds the card and hands it back to the person when he or she reports for jury duty, explaining the correct process to be followed in the future.
So, bottom line, if you don’t have an exemption, don’t return the card by mail. Take it with you the day you report for jury duty.
Q: Do you know the source for finding out how much the officers in charitable organizations are paid? For instance, there’s one here in Longview I’m interested in — the Texas Special Children’s Projects. I know they have an office here in town. They’re having a fundraiser. I think I want to give, but I want to know their financial affairs.
A: Generally speaking, nonprofit organizations that bring in more than $50,000 annually must file what’s called a Form 990 with the IRS each year. The form details financial information that can help you decide if a charity is using its money wisely. Nonprofits such as the Texas Special Children’s Projects are required to make that document available to the public to view at their offices. (Some nonprofits also make it available on their websites, and there are other websites that make it possible for you to view these forms as well, such as on Guidestar.org .)
I walked in to the office of Texas Special Children’s Projects on Fredonia Street in Longview and found the folks there were to happy to allow me to view the organization’s most recent Form 990. They told me the organization is working to file its 2016 report so the most recent one available is from 2015.
That document lists the organization’s mission as “To enrich the lives of handicapped, disabled and special needs individuals by providing quality recreational, entertainment and activity projects year-round.”
It also shows that in 2015 Texas Special Children’s Projects had revenue of $212,343. The organization paid a total $108,777 in salaries and benefits for all employees, including $39,581 for president David Hanshaw and $37,553 for Vice President Billy Hill. The form has additional information about how the remainder of the organization’s revenues were spent. Again, anyone can ask to view this document from any nonprofit.