Burdick resigns from Vineyard Trust

Issues with Flying Horses grant applications come to light.

Funi Burdick has resigned from the Vineyard Trust after altering grant applications for CPC funding for the Old Whaling Church and Flying Horses.

Vineyard Trust president and CEO Funi Burdick resigned just days after The Times wrote about issues with altered grant applications for community preservation committee funding for the Old Whaling Church in Edgartown and Flying Horses Carousel in Oak Bluffs.

Last week at an Edgartown CPC meeting, town administrator James Hagerty confirmed a construction quote for work to be done on the Whaling Church had been altered before being submitted as an article on the town meeting warrant requesting $175,751 in CPC funding. The documents can be found here.

The Times submitted public records requests for documents relating to Flying Horses on Friday, but has not received them.

Trust chairman Patrick Ahearn had a statement emailed to The Times Wednesday detailing Burdick’s resignation. Former trust chair Sally Rorer will fill the president and CEO role in the interim.

“After it was brought to my attention there may have been irregularities with Vineyard Trust’s submissions to the towns of Edgartown and Oak Bluffs for CPC funding to restore the Old Whaling Church and Flying Horses [carousel], respectively, as board chairman I immediately launched a thorough review and analysis of these submissions,” Ahearn’s statement reads. “The Vineyard Trust Executive Committee and I, along with three of our past board chairs, have regrettably concluded errors were made in the grant applications prepared by staff and submitted to each town, and there simply is no excuse for that.

“The restoration of historic nationally registered structures must comply with the U.S. Department of Interior guidelines, as well as those of each town when applying for funding for restoration. While mistakes were made by the Vineyard Trust’s staff, we believe they were honest mistakes made without malice or fraudulent intent. Nonetheless, these errors are totally unacceptable, and we apologize for them. Based on the conclusion of our review, I have accepted the resignation of Vineyard Trust’s President, Funi Burdick, effective today. She has accepted full responsibility and accountability for these regrettable mistakes. Funi has done many positive things for the Vineyard Trust since joining us four years ago. She has been a good steward of our properties and has strengthened our organization in many ways, and we thank her for her service.”

Vineyard Trust is a nonprofit responsible for historic properties across the Island including the Whaling Church, Flying Horses, and Alley’s General Store. The board will launch a search for Burdick’s replacement with Rorer taking over while that occurs.

“I thank Sally for her leadership during this time until we find Funi’s replacement,” Ahearn said in the statement. “Importantly, I have asked our governance committee, chaired by Robin Graham, to establish a strict protocol to ensure errors of this nature are not repeated. We take very seriously our stewardship of the 20 historic properties under our care and ownership, and we want to maintain transparency in all that we do. We pledge to ensure the resources entrusted to us by the towns and our donors are handled professionally and diligently as we preserve much of the Island’s heritage through these 20 properties. 

“We sincerely apologize to the communities of Edgartown and Oak Bluffs for these submission errors and we will make every effort to ensure they are not repeated in the future. Thank you for your understanding and continued support.”


  1. As chairman Patrick Ahearn should be stepping down as well as I do not believe this was done in a vacuum. And reading his language makes me sick as these were not innocent little mistakes this was out right corruption by the organization. There needs to be more looked at with the preservation trust like how they kick out a marine business to allow a member of the trust open a real estate office. How they kick out a paying tenant in one of their properties so the Director can live there the list of devastating things this Director has done to the island is countless. And the board allowed it all to happen she is not entitled to take the fall for everyone there’s plenty of blame to go around. You sometimes get what you pay for but this directors huge salary one of the highest on the island did not return what we paid for. But Karma did come around.

    • Ahearn’s attorneys just went me a “cease and desist” letter or he’ll sue me.

  2. “While mistakes were made by the Vineyard Trust’s staff, we believe they were honest mistakes made without malice or fraudulent intent.”, said Patrick Ahearn. Really??! She takes a pen and crosses out “painting” and writes “restoration; continuing ini her own handwriting she then changes John Anderson’s estimates; and then photoshops the fraudulent language and numbers onto a copy of his letterhead?! There’s a law suit here – be it by the Town, or class action or personal. A total “mistake” – right! Here’s another cover-up now — Ahearn and the Executive Committee should all resign and so should the Trustees who are complicit in other self-dealings – Alley’s; Norton Boat House (2 different Trustees);12 North Water Street. I think we should know if Burdick was given a severance package to leave since this was all a “honest mistakes”; “without malice or fraudulent intent”. I bet she was paid to leave.
    And how is it that the Trust is retaining Chairman Ahearn? What a joke Ahearn’s statement was! And, the rest of the Trustees is not inspiring ANY trust whatsoever by allowing the Chairman to try to sweep this ‘innocent mistake’ under their rug. Any PR Crisis Management team can attest this isn’t how you handle a crisis.

  3. A complete audit of the trust business practices is in order! With regard to Mr. Ahearn – something doesn’t smell right!

    • And the audit should go back many years to assuage the public’s confidence levels.This could be a real stinker !

  4. Mistakes? A mistake is unintentional. If what Ms. Burdick did was a mistake, it appears to be a deliberate one! The documents provided indicate Ms. Burdick’s apparent decision to deceive. Deliberately withholding information, falsify documentation, and submitting falsified information to obtain money? I think that may also be called forgery? And what is the word one would use when forgery leads to being deceived out of cash?

  5. Jane and Bob said it. Thank you. If corruption occurs without criminal charges, then other corruption will continue to flourish.

  6. You are absolutely right, Jane, and Thank you for helping us understand this terrible corruption
    That has turned a great man’s legacy of devotion to Edgartown (Bailey Norton) into a water view pad for a real estate developer
    Our trust in THE TRUST has been broken and Patrick Ahearn is complicit
    I hope that the board votes to remove Patrick Ahearn on Friday

  7. As a long-time Trustee of Vineyard Trust, I can say this is a sad day for those of us who volunteer our time and resources to preserve the island’s history and heritage by supporting Vineyard Trust. I can assure all of you who wrote letters that the Trustees were unaware of these mistakes, and we could not have known. While we were aware grants were being applied for, as volunteer board members we rely on paid staff to accurately complete the grants, which is their expertise. We are all volunteering to support the community, and it is disheartening to read your comments. As soon as we learned what happened, we took immediate action (our Chairman launched an investigation and brought in former leaders of the organization on that review committee to be certain no stone was left unturned. When the analysis was complete, the Chairman accepted the resignation of the President. He also has assigned our governance committee to be sure this never happens again.) This was swift action to correct the mistake. He also has apologized to the community, pledged transparency, and asked for the community’s support because we need it now more than ever. I don’t think you could ask anything more from a volunteer non-profit board and I’d ask you to please support our efforts going forward as we all want to do good in the community and make it as enjoyable as possible for all of us who live here, or visit. Thank you.

    • “Trustees were unaware of these mistakes, and we could not have known.”
      Competent trustees know it all.

  8. Isn’t there an applicable law available to charge Burdick? Of course there is. Where is the will to confront this behavior? Oh, I forgot–the island tolerance…and she likely gets the “Maciel” slap on the wrist treatment.

    • Hope not. There is likely a serious crime here with possibly more to come. If it isn’t handled in accordance with the law, public trust will cease to exist totally.

  9. I have a feeling accountability will only happen if donations dry up. Sadly most of the donations probably come from the wealthy people who got that way by practicing the exact type of privilege and corruption going on at the trust.

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