ORLANDO, Fla. — Several mothers of Pulse nightclub victims, along with those who were wounded and their family members, are demanding a criminal investigation into the onePULSE organization.
This demand comes after the onePULSE Foundation failed to reach an agreement with nightclub owners Barbara and Rosario Poma regarding the donation of the property for a permanent memorial site. Barbara Poma was an original co-founder and an executive director of onePULSE until she stepped down from that role recently.
Expressing their frustration and impatience, individuals gathered outside City Hall to voice their concerns and demand answers about the organization's use of funds.
"You gotta ask the tough questions," said Christine Leinonen, a mother of one of the Pulse victims. "Ask the onePULSE Foundation, 'What have you been doing for seven years? What have you been doing? There is no memorial.'"
Another speaker highlighted a personal perspective, "I am no longer someone's cash cow — I'm not receiving any part of that meal," they said.
The foundation sent out a statement in response to those claims:
“The onePULSE Foundation respects the solemnity of today for those who have lost loved ones
However, the claims made today about the Foundation are untrue and misinformed. The onePULSE Foundation publishes its audited financial statements and 990 on its website, a practice it has adhered to every year since its inception.
Furthermore, the Foundation is proud to carry a Gold Seal rating in Guidestar, a rating that less than five percent of nonprofits registered with the agency hold. Guidestar evaluates the financial transparency and accountability of nonprofits worldwide.”
Many echoed the sentiment of feeling used by the organization, emphasizing the lack of support received in the aftermath of the 2016 shooting at the Orlando nightclub at 1912 South Orange Ave. by Omar Mateen.
Barbara Poma, the owner of Pulse nightclub, released a statement following the press conference.
"Since that tragic night at Pulse Nightclub my time has been focused on remembering and honoring the 49 angels whose lives were taken and their surviving families as they navigate unimaginable grief. It has been an uncharted path for everyone. Out of respect to those impacted by this tragedy, I have never responded to the handful of individuals who continue to spread a myriad of untruths about my husband and me, falsely blaming us for what was an unforeseeable terrorist attack. These individuals continue to speak untruthfully about us, and as always, without any knowledge or facts. The decisions we have made related to the onePULSE Foundation have been difficult and personal. While I recognize and respect these individuals’ grief, that should not serve as a free pass for intentionally spreading lies about us. It is hurtful, undeserved and helps no one."
The demands for a criminal investigation into the onePULSE organization reflect the growing frustration and disappointment among those directly affected by the terror shooting at Pulse nightclub.
The lack of progress in establishing a permanent memorial site, coupled with allegations of mismanagement of funds, has intensified the call for accountability and transparency.