Vanguard Reporting Results in Denial of Grant Funding for Sketchy Silicon Valley Domestic Violence Nonprofit

WomenSV founder Ruth Patrick Darlene at a 2019 fundraising event at Los Altos Country Club. Source WomenSV website.

Tainted Trials, Tarnished Headlines, Stolen Justice Series: Vanguard Reporting Results in Denial of Grant Funding for Sketchy Silicon Valley Domestic Violence Nonprofit

By Susan Bassi, Fred Johnson and Habri Ruggeri

The Davis Vanguard attended a recent public meeting of the Los Altos City Council to report on grant funding requests made by local organizations, including WomenSV, a nonprofit that claims to provide services to survivors of domestic violence.

In a series of Vanguard reports, over 50 WomenSV clients and private donors have alleged that the charity does little to help domestic violence victims and instead acts as a stealth attorney referral service for wealthy abuse survivors going though acrimonious divorces. In exchange for the lucrative client referrals, the attorneys make donations and sponsor swanky fundraisers for WomenSV.

While previous WomenSV funding grant requests appear to have been rubber stamped by the Los Altos City Council, at the recent council meeting the latest request received closer scrutiny and was denied.

In denying the request, councilmembers indicated that they were influenced by women who, during the public comment portion of the meeting, recounted their negative experiences with WomenSV and asked that the city stop giving taxpayer money to the organization.

WomenSV Victims and Whistleblowers Speak Out

At the city council meeting, a WomanSV client identified as “Patricia” described her traumatic experience with the organization and the impact it had on her and her three children. Patricia explained that she reached out to WomenSV for help and support in connection with the abuse of her son during an 18-year-long family court custody battle.

In reference to an unusual non-disclosure agreement (NDA) that WomenSV clients are required to sign, Patricia said the mandatory NDA was a form of revictimization. “I come to you tonight on behalf of myself and many other victims of WomenSV who have been silenced,” she began. “They’ve not only been silenced by abusive spouses or partners, but they’ve also been silenced by WomenSV.”

Patricia suffered financial problems after retaining the Hoover Krepelka law firm, recommended by WomenSV, to help with her child custody court dispute. The referral resulted in exorbitant legal fees she could not pay, a lien on her family home filed by the law firm for the fees, and loss of child custody of her son.

“The family home that has been with us since 1964 has multiple liens on it as a result of Hoover and Krepelka,” Patricia explained at the city council meeting. “I used this law firm trusting they were going to help me because James Hoover sits on the [WomenSV] board.”

Patricia closed by asking that the grant request be denied. “I am not afraid to speak up anymore. Many people are afraid to speak up, they are afraid of retribution. But someone must be our voice,” she said. “I would like to request that WomenSV no longer obtains funding from the city of Los Altos or from the county of Santa Clara.”


To receive services, all clients of WomenSV are required to sign a non-disclosure agreement. The Vanguard obtained a copy of the NDA from a whistleblower.

Margaret Petros, a 26-year Los Altos resident and certified crime victim advocate, also addressed the city council, expressing her own concerns about the WomenSV organization.

Petros stated that while she had initially supported the nonprofit and the work claimed it would do, she withdrew her support after learning the internal workings of the organization. Like Patricia, Petros was shocked that WomenSV required clients to sign non-disclosure agreements.

“When I saw a four-page non-disclosure agreement required for clients of WomenSV to sign, I read it, I have a copy of it, that is dangerous. … These are women who are running away from abusive and controlling relationships. To be in a nonprofit helping agency and having to stay silent and under the threat of being sued [is unacceptable].”

Petros also took issue with WomenSV asking clients for money during group meetings. “That’s not okay with me and I’ve worked in nonprofits all these years … There is no reason to collect cash from clients in a nonprofit charitable agency that’s funded by public funds,” Petros explained. “I really urge you to seriously consider before you do this funding. There are many agencies out there that are deserving and need it,” she concluded.

Veteran of nonprofit organization work for crime victims, Margaret Petros recommended that the Los Altos City Council deny the grant application request of WomenSV.

Who is Women SV? Will the Real Ruth Patrick Darlene Please Stand Up

The different identities of the WomenSV executive director, CEO, and founder. Even the WomenSV website includes a tag cloud (purple background) listing the different versions.

WomenSV is run by a woman of several identities. In the official IRS and nonprofit records for WomenSV, “Ruth Patrick” is listed as CEO or president/executive director. On the WomenSV website, the same individual goes by Ruth Darlene, Ruth Darlene Patrick, or Ruth Patrick Darlene, with the title of founder and executive director. In a voluminous number of articles and promotional material about WomenSV published by the Los Altos Town Crier, she goes by all of the above and Ruthven Darlene.

Dennis Young, a WomenSV board member and CPA who prepares the nonprofit’s tax returns, is co-owner of the Los Altos Town Crier. He has declined to respond to the Vanguard’s inquiries for over a year.

Despite multiple requests by the Vanguard for comment about the issues raised in this report, Ruth Patrick, Ruth Darlene, Ruth Darlene Patrick, Ruth Patrick Darlene, and Ruthven Darlene declined to respond.

 

Local Nonprofit Pitches

Nine public speakers in total spoke to Los Altos councilmembers on May 28, 2024, to advocate for six grant applications. Six speakers spoke in support of funding for Arts Los Altos, Resilient Los Altos, Compassion Week Los Altos, and Jasper Ridge Farm. No representatives were present to speak on behalf of the Los Altos Mountain View Community Foundation, or WomenSV.

Volunteers for Arts Los Altos spoke of the good public art it provides a community.

Speakers for Resilient Los Altos reminded councilmembers of the importance of local communications during an emergency.

Several individuals spoke on behalf of Compassion Week, reminding councilmembers of the importance of spreading emotional wellness inside and out of the city’s boundaries.

Speakers advocating for public funding of Jasper Ridge Farm described the therapeutic benefit of taking dogs, chickens and farm animals to domestic abuse survivors and students at Los Altos High School during final exams.

Three public speakers spoke in opposition to the WomenSV grant application, including Susan Bassi who spoke in support of the Vanguard’s reporting on WomenSV and the eighty women and duped donors who came forward to make the reporting possible.

Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen (left) photographed with WomenSV founder Ruth Patrick during a September 26, 2019, fundraiser at the Los Altos Country Club.

City Council Denies DV Diva Public Funding

After hearing from the public and questioning grant applicants, the Los Altos city council provided their thoughts on the 2024 grant applications and the organizations behind them.

After a lengthy discussion, city officials denied all requests, except for funding $10,000 for Arts Los Altos—an organization that had been passed over a year earlier when the council elected to exclusively fund WomenSV.

During councilmember discussion of WomenSV’s 2024 application seeking $60,000 in public funds paid over a two-year period, Vice Mayor Pete Dailey expressed disappointment that WomenSV representatives did not appear before council to defend and advocate for their request.

Dailey further acknowledged that, following the Vanguard’s 2023 reporting, he had investigated the nonprofit and found the organization’s representatives not forthcoming with accurate information. Nonetheless he was willing to continue taxpayer support for WomenSV, committing taxpayers to fund an additional $10,000, paid over a two-year period.

Mayor Jonathan Weinberg, an attorney, revealed that he was aware that WomenSV had been investigated by law enforcement, but cleared of wrongdoing. It was unclear how he learned of a nonpublic investigation.

Weinberg referred to the opposition to funding WomenSV as “anecdotal” and voted with Dailey to continue funding WomenSV with taxpayer funds.

Vice Mayor Pete Dailey acted as Treasurer for Mayor Jonathan Wienberg’s political campaign in 2020.

Councilmember Neysha Fligor, an attorney for HP, voted to deny WomenSV’s 2024 grant application.

Councilwoman Lynette Lee Ng, voted to deny the 2024 WomenSV grant application. Additionally, Lee Ng thanked those who came forward to speak up about their experiences, acknowledging the courage it took to come forward.

Before voting with Fligor and Lee Ng, Councilmember Sally Meadows called the comments opposing further funding of WomenSV “defamatory” and “part of a smear campaign.”  Meadows also acknowledged she had investigated WomenSV and asked for additional information, which had not been provided.

Meadows’ statements were viewed by those in attendance at the meeting as an effort to victim shame those who had spoken in opposition to publicly funding WomenSV and to further discredit the Vanguard’s robust reporting.

Again, the city council voted to deny all 2024 nonprofit grant applications except for the $10,000 it committed to provide for Arts Los Altos.

The denial of WomenSV’s 2024 request marks the first time Los Altos taxpayers will not be supporting the nonprofit since 2016.

“We have seen these same public officials dish out public money to WomenSV for years, never questioning the public good that came from that spending.”

The city’s annual budget is nearly $60 million dollars.

Several grant applicants, who spoke to the Vanguard on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation, noted the city grant application and approval process was “dizzying” and lacked transparency.

“If you are buddies with one of the council members, your nonprofit’s application is likely to get approved, but if you aren’t one of the cronies, your organization won’t get funding.”

One applicant told the Vanguard. “We have seen these same public officials dish out public money to WomenSV for years, never questioning the public good that came from that spending.”

On June 5, 2024, the Los Altos Town Crier falsely reported that only two speakers had opposed WomenSV funding, completely omitting longtime resident Margreat Petros’ comments and criticism of the nonprofit and its founder in their reporting.

Following the Los Altos City Council’s decision to deny WomenSV funding, Margret Petros told the Vanguard, “Nonprofit agencies like WomenSV ruin it for the hardworking, dedicated nonprofits who bring valuable and much-needed work into communities.”

Petros noted she was baffled to witness the heavy-handed questioning of very small nonprofits seeking $5-$15K funding for their amazing work, only to be turned away, while WomenSV appeared to have fast-track access with the majority of the elected officials in Los Altos.

Petros, a long time Los Altan, noted the appearance of local officials abusing their power and position by giving preferential access to public funds for those they personally and politically favor.

Petros added, “What’s been happening here is unacceptable.”

The Vanguard is a nonprofit online news outlet that reports California’s courts, police, politics, and nonprofit organizations.

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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