Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A Ploy By Another Politician To Enhance Himself At The Charity's Expense

by Gary Snyder

Powerful Vito Lopez resigned from the New York state assembly as well as the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council. He founded it in 1973 as a multi-service nonprofit providing everything from affordable housing subsidies to education to emergency shelter for homeless youth.  It is a broad network that employs over 2,000 people and boasts an annual income of roughly $19 million.

Unfortunately, he used his position to enhance himself and his friends and lovers. 

Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council executive director, Christiana Fisher, who also served as Mr. Lopez's campaign treasurer, was forced out. Ms. Fisher was found by the city's Department of Investigation to have recreated missing documents to justify her $782,000 pay in fiscal 2009. That same year Angela Battaglia Mr. Lopez's longtime girlfriend pulled in $343,000.

After news, in 2012, about Mr. Lopez's sexual harassment scandal broke, the New York Times reported about the group's unusually close relationship with the assemblyman. The nonprofit would produce its own newspapers with fawning coverage of Mr. Lopez, and would close its doors on Election Day so employees could vote for Mr. Lopez and his favored candidates.

Competing nonprofits have long complained that Ridgewood Bushwick got the lion's share of funding and contracts because of Mr. Lopez's influence behind the scenes. The assemblyman, who for years chaired the Assembly housing committee, was known to advocate and act on the nonprofit's behalf. Rivals, who lacked such politically powerful champions, may find the playing field more level as agencies and elected officials need no longer fear retribution from Mr. Lopez for funding other organizations in Ridgewood Bushwick's northern Brooklyn domain.

In its own study, Nonprofit Imperative has documented politicians pocketing nearly $1 billion of taxpayer’s largess through charities they controlled.

Nonprofit Imperative gathers its information principally from public documents...some of which are directly quoted. Virtually all cited are in some phase of criminal proceedings; some have not been charged, however. Cites in various media: Featured in print, broadcast, and online media outlets, including: Vermont Public Radio, Miami Herald, National Public Radio, Huffington Post, The Sun News, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Wall Street Journal (Profile, News and Photos), FOX2, ABC Spotlight on the News, WWJ Radio, Ethics World, Aspen Philanthropy Newsletter, Harvard Business Review, Current Affairs, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, St. Petersburg Times, B, USA Today Topics, Newsweek.com, Responsive Philanthropy Magazine, New York Times...and many more Nonprofits: On the Brink (2006) Silence: The Impending Threat to the Charitable Sector (2011)
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