Al Sharpton approved.
From NY Post: Share this: A nonprofit run by state lawmakers that spent $1 million on annual scholarship-fundraising galas over two years but gave zilch to needy minority students also failed to pay school taxes on its Albany building, The Post has learned.
The New York State Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators, which puts on a lavish three-day “Caucus Weekend” of parties and workshops in Albany every February, owes $12,275.07 in unpaid Albany school taxes for 2016 and 2018, according to public documents. The figure includes $1,747 in accumulated interest.
The group, founded by minority Assembly members in 1985, bought the three-story townhouse on South Swan Street for $200,000 in 1994, public records show. The group uses the first floor as an office, and rented out the rest of the building for $3,400 in the 2016-2017 tax year, federal filings show. The property is located just minutes from the state Capitol.
On Thursday a woman showed up to staff the charity’s office at 12:45 pm and shooed a Post reporter away when he began asking questions.“There’s no one here to talk to,” she said, slamming the door and letting out an exasperated, “Lord, have mercy!”
One former lawmaker who was a member of the association said she had never been to the building but was told it was the group’s “party house.”
Powerbrokers like former Mayor David Dinkins and ex-state Comptroller Carl McCall sit on the group’s board — but refused to comment and did not return messages, respectively.
Meanwhile, The Post obtained federal tax documents that confirmed the association gave out no grants in the 2015-16 and 2016-17 fiscal years.
In the latest tax form available, on the line specifying “grants and similar amounts paid” the group wrote “0” for fiscal 2016. On another page, where grants were to be listed for the four fiscal years, the last two fiscal years were left blank.
The group insisted that scholarships had been given out in 2016 and 2017 but refused to provide The Post any cancelled checks or the full names of scholarship recipients. Instead, it handed over a single sheet of paper listing a total of $20,950 doled out to 34 students listed by first name in 2016. It listed $5,250 for 13 students ID’d by first name for 2017.
But the sheet of paper was not part of the federal tax filing and the totals were not reflected on the return. The leadership refused to address The Post’s questions about these inconsistencies.
Donors are not happy about the vanishing student grants. “Money raised for children’s scholarships should go for scholarships,” said Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, which has sponsored the group’s events.
Corporate sponsors and unions, including AT&T, Verizon, ConEd and New York State United Teachers, pay up to $50,000 for a “Plantinum Package” for the weekend. It includes tickets to workshops and speeches, but also cocktail parties and concerts where they rub elbows with Albany’s political elite.
The weekend ends with a lavish dinner that is supposed to raise funds for scholarships for minority youth. “I just sign the checks they give me to sign,” said Westchester Assemblyman Gary Pretlow, the organization’s longtime treasurer, when quizzed about the missing scholarships. “We have a lot of bills associated with the events.”
While students went without scholarships for the last two fiscal years, the group spent an accumulated $1,058,973 in expenses.
In fiscal tax year 2016-2017 it spent a total of $518,222, including $283,526 on fundraising, $100,750 on “management,” $39,639 on office expenses, according to its most recent filing to the IRS, which the group’s chairwoman, Brooklyn Assemblywoman Latrice Walker, made available to The Post last week following multiple requests.
Walker became chair of the organization in October 2017, taking over from Queens Assemblywoman Michele Titus, who headed the group between 2015 and 2017.
A spokeswoman for Walker, who is running for Public Advocate, said that she has already “eliminated superfluous expenses and cut spending” at the nonprofit. She also hired a new executive director and is requiring that the group submit to annual audits, the spokeswoman said.
After The Post expose last week, state Attorney General Letitia James said she was “troubled” by the findings.