100 Club announces policy changes to fallen firefighter donations

There was a recent controversy about where the money was going

By Joel Eisenbaum - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - It's a local organization that's been around for 60 years honoring the Houston area's bravest -- public servants killed in the line of duty. But recently Local 2 Investigates spotlighted controversy about where money donated to the 100 Club is going.

After the tragedy at the Southwest Inn, there was an outpouring of financial support from the community. But in the terms of donations to the 100 Club, a generally well-respected organization, there was a flap over where the money was going -- and that issue was front and center Tuesday.

"We never intentionally deceived anyone," said 100 Club Executive Director Rick Hartley.

They're not accustomed to being under fire, but the 100 Club certainly has been recently, and at the root of it was a longstanding but perhaps not well-publicized rule.

"We cannot give the cash directly to a non-dependent family member," said Hartley.

What was well-publicized was a billboard that appeared shortly after the Southwest Inn fire showing the four who perished.

"Our concern was really the impression that people had when they were making donations that it was going to the families of the fallen, but it wasn't in this case," said Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association President Jeff Caynon.

Hartley said, "A good-intentioned outdoor advertising firm did it on their own without our knowledge."

Now, under pressure, the 31,000 member organization is changing their rules. The previous blanket policy is being replaced with a case-by-case assessment in these cases where there are no direct dependents.

"We will provide $20,000 checks to the executor of the estate," said Hartley.

HPFFA confirmed to us Tuesday afternoon about $97,000 will new be split among the fallen firefighters' families -- that's money directly from the 100 Club.

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