April 1, 2023

MISSING: GOP Congressman ducks questions about $25K raised for children’s burial garden

MISSING: GOP Congressman ducks questions about $25K raised for children's burial garden

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When Rep. Andy Ogles (R-TN) and his wife Monica set up a GoFundMe after asking for donations to build a burial garden for children two days after their son Lincoln’s stillbirth, donors rallied to the grieving parents’ cause and contributing nearly $25,000.

But according to NewsChannel 5 Investigations, almost eight years later neither the burial garden nor the $23,475 raised has been accounted for, leaving donors and others asking, “Where’s the money?”

Rep. Ogles, however, refuses to answer the question, evading reporters when confronted outside of a political event – hopping into a truck and slamming the door.

When reporters asked a donor what they’d say to the congressman, “Tell us what you did! Tell us where the money went!” they responded.

“We gave @AndyOgles a chance to tell us in advance what he did with the money. He refused,” NewsChannel 5’s chief investigative reporter, Phil Williams tweeted on Wednesday.

“Congressman, this doesn’t have to be a story if you just offer some evidence it went for a good cause. What did you do with the money that people donated for Lincoln’s Place?” – News Channel 5

Instead, Rep. Ogles released a statement to another news outlet accusing the questions of being politically motivated – and insisting the money was used to help other families, despite lack of proof.

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Read the letter below.

Alleging the inquiry is little more than a “smear campaign,” the congressman accuses reporters of “crossing a line” with their questions.

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“Andy has used that money and the other donations received to assist families in the community and honor Lincoln’s life,” donor Andy Miller was quoted in the statement.

“I knew polities could be ruthless, but I never expected it to sink to such disgusting lows as to have a reporter calling around to my close friends asking about the death and burial site of our beloved son, Lincoln, and question our giving in his honor.” – Rep. Andy Ogles

“Lincoln’s Place” included visions of erecting statues of Jesus and Mary to watch over the children, a swing set for siblings, and benches for parents and families to sit in the flower-filled garden.

Pam Stephens, owner and director of Williamson Memorial Funeral Home,  confirmed meeting with the Ogles to discuss their plans, telling the couple that other families had similar ideas.

“My goal is to gather all these families together and have a unified effort as opposed to this group doing this and that group doing that.” – Stephens

The cemetery’s manager offered to work with the couple’s vision, starting with a few small plots before expanding, “But he never came back to us,” Stephens said.

“Back at that time, we could have helped them do something,” she added.

When approached in 2015, Rep. Ogles blamed bureaucracy and red tape for the burial garden’s delay, asserting that “none of the money had been spent,” according to The Tennessean. 

“What we found out over the past year as we have been going through this process is that burials are heavily regulated,” he said.

Despite his failure to respond to requests for proof that the money went to a good cause, Rep. Ogles continues to refer to the death of his son.

Just last summer, the Maury County representative blamed Obamacare for the couple’s difficulty getting their insurance to cover the medical costs.

No stranger to controversy, Rep. Ogles was exposed for fudging on his resume.

The congressman was exposed by Nashville’s WTVF in February for inconsistencies regarding claims of being a former law enforcement officer, economist, and child-sex trafficking investigator.

Unsurprisingly, Rep. Santos has been accused of not using GoFundMe donations as intended when he failed to turn over money raised for the life-saving surgery of a veteran’s dog.

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“Honestly, in this case, I hope he’s able to provide me with documentation that the money went for a good cause,” News Channel 5 said of Ogles.

For some, the subject of the missing funds is a sensitive one. “It just feels like a topic you can’t touch,” one donor said. “It’s just taboo.”

This is understandable, considering the fundraiser involves the untimely death of a child, but the disappearance of tens of thousands in donations meant to assist other grieving parents with the burial of their own children should also be.

Original reporting by Phil Williams at New Channel 5 and Tom Wilemon at The Tennessean.

Follow Ty Ross on Twitter @cooltxchick

Ty Ross

News journalist for Washington Press and Occupy Democrats.

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