Coakley’s office asks Vietnamese non-profit to file overdue reports

Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office has told a Dorchester-based Vietnamese-American non-profit group that it faces the prospect of civil penalties if it does not in the next few weeks file a series of overdue annual reports with the state.

In a letter sent to the head of the New Vietnamese American Community of Massachusetts, Inc., a compliance officer with Coakley’s nonprofit and public charities division, requested the group’s annual report filings for 2008 through 2011. State law requires all non-profits and public charities to file their annual accountings with the attorney general.

Representatives of the organization were not immediately available for comment over the holiday weekend. The address for the non-profit is a residence on Washington Street in Lower Mills and its head is listed as Binh Thanh Nguyen.

“As a result of the organization’s failure to file as required, the Division is authorized to bring an action to restrain the organization from transacting business in the Commonwealth,” Amy Bryson, the compliance officer, wrote in a Dec. 20 letter obtained by the Reporter. “Furthermore, the Division will not issue a certificate of solicitation while your organization is not compliant with the filing requirements.”

The non-profit’s lack of annual filings came up during a meeting of Vietnamese community leaders last Friday night. About 20 people gathered at the Fields Corner offices of VietAID, a local development organization, to discuss the organization and the potential creation of a new civic association to represent Vietnamese residents. Fields Corner is home to a large Vietnamese population, many of them refugees who arrived in the 1980s.

Tony Dang, a Dorchester resident, said several Vietnamese residents approached him with concerns about the nonprofit and an alleged lack of transparency. He started asking questions, but New Vietnamese leaders were unhelpful and unresponsive, he said. Diane Huynh, Mayor Thomas Menino’s liaison to the Vietnamese community, acknowledged that the nonprofit does not always “share information.”

Dang raised questions about whether the annual lunar festival the nonprofit helps organize should occur this year. In recent years, the celebration, which is now set for Feb. 2 at the Harbor School in Fields Corner, has drawn thousands with highlight events including music performances from Vietnamese rappers and pop stars as well as high school and university student groups.

District 3 Councillor Frank Baker, who attended the Friday meeting at VietAID’s offices, suggested that Coakley’s office be allowed the chance to do its work. “I think you have to wait for it to flush out,” he said. Gilbert Ho, a civic leader from Chinatown, agreed. And Nam Pham, the executive director of VietAID, said the nonprofit’s records must be made available, including its fundraising numbers. “You have to let people know,” he said.

Dang and the group also discussed setting up a Vietnamese- American council or neighborhood association that would meet once a month. The group ideally would include business and political leaders, Dang suggested.