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Lighthouse Report

Experts Debunk Lighthouse Report

 “Over-interpretation and over-generalization are especially common ethical problems. Small increases or decreases in incidence or prevalence of health conditions occur all too commonly and can be manipulated for specific purposes.”
- The American Public Health Association

Lighthouse of Oakland County issued its indefensible report called Combating Poverty in Oakland County in April of 2014. On the first reading, it became clear it was full of statistical errors and used sensational language.

Factual Errors

Two Oakland County epidemiologists studied the Lighthouse report then reviewed the American Community Survey from which Lighthouse drew its data. From that assessment, Nicole Parker - with assistance from Shane Bies - discovered many egregious errors. Both are Oakland County Health Division epidemiologists who hold master’s degrees in public health with a concentration in statistical analysis. They outline a few of the greater errors in the two documents below.

Lighthouse of Oakland Data Review Results Summary_Page_1.jpg
Lighthouse of Oakland Data Review Results Summary.pdfLighthouse Data Review Results Summary
Lighthouse Report Errors and Facts_Page_02.jpg

Fact: Oakland Co. has the lowest poverty rate in the tri-county area

  • Oakland County: 9889 per 100,000 residents live in poverty

  • Macomb County: 11,727 per 100,000 residents live in poverty

  • Wayne County (excluding Detroit): 14,223 per 100,000 residents live in poverty

  • Detroit: 37,953 per 100,000 residents live in poverty

Oakland County budgeted nearly $33 million for Fiscal Year 2014 for programs that help individuals facing economic challenges. They include Community Health Promotion and Intervention Services, housing counseling services, Community & Home Improvement programs, and a variety of employment assistance programs to enable those facing tough times to find employment.


Not-so-altruistic motives

What was Lighthouse’s motive? To enhance fundraising. After Lighthouse made its big splash in the news media, the next business day it sent out an alarmist letter to its donors and stakeholders designed to tug at the heartstrings. It begins “We have seen a seismic shift in Oakland County poverty….” Read the shameful letter on the right.

The ethical and accurate use of data is imperative when publishing and distributing reports to the community, especially when intending to use that data for fundraising purposes.

It is interesting to note that when Lighthouse initially issued its poverty report, it was freely available on its website for all the public to see. Now, one must send in a name and email address to receive a copy.

How Lighthouse spends donations

The Lighthouse of Oakland County spent a little more than 54 percent of its revenue (donations, grants and investment income) on executive and employee compensation, benefits, and related expenses in three years.

Lighthouse’s total revenue was $4,309,150 for Fiscal Years 2009-2011. Its executive and employee compensation, benefits and related expenses added up to $2,338,498.

One additional item of note, Lighthouse President/CEO John Ziraldo’s total compensation in FY2010 was $119,691. In FY2011, his total compensation jumped to $144,462. That is a $24,771 difference or over a 20 percent change in wages and benefits in one year.

One can see the evidence in Lighthouse’s 990 forms filed with the Internal Revenue Service below. FY2011 is the last year for which there is a public record.

2012 Lighthouse 990_Page_01.jpg
2011 Lighthouse 990_Page_01.jpg
2010 Lighthouse 990_Page_01.jpg

Good news

“Now entering its fifth year of recovery, Oakland County is leaving the 2008-09 recession firmly behind in its rearview mirror. After bursting out of the recession with more than 65,000 new jobs over the past three years, the Oakland economy will add nearly 43,000 jobs through 2016—11,000 jobs this year, 15,000 next year and 17,000 the year after, say University of Michigan economists. And for the first time since 2003, Oakland's unemployment rate will fall below the national average this year, dropping to 5 percent by 2016.”
- University of Michigan press release

During the Great Recession, poverty increased everywhere. Oakland County certainly was not immune. In stark contrast to Lighthouse’s report, Oakland County today is in full economic recovery and is leading Michigan in job growth.

The University of Michigan released its three-year (2014-2016) economic outlook for Oakland County in May of 2014. The news is outstanding. The complete economic outlook press release and report are below.

Economic Outlook Press Release.pdfEconomic Outlook Press Release

Economic Outlook Report 2014.pdfEconomic Outlook Report 2014

Take action

If you agree that Lighthouse should be held accountable for the errors in its poverty report and its its subsequent use to boost donations, call Lighthouse CEO/President John Ziraldo at 248-920-6000 or write its Board of Trustees at 46156 Woodward Avenue, P.O. Box 430508, Pontiac, MI 48342.