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theodore M I R A L D I mpa ... editor, publisher, writer. katherine molé mfa ... art director
Sunday, December 30, 2018
Minority Legislators PARTY HARDY, But Gave NO GRANTS To Students
Can't Imagine why the children in Minority Neighborhoods Fall Behind? Just look who REPRESENTS THEM! ...tmiraldi
A nonprofit run by state lawmakers to raise scholarship money for needy minority students spends most of the cash on its lavish annual soiree — including $6,000 on limos — and gave out no grants the last two years, The Post has learned.
The New York State Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators organizes a “Caucus Weekend” — a series of workshops, concerts and parties — in Albany every February for minority members of the Assembly and the Senate.
The group charges sponsors up to $50,000 for a chance to party with lawmakers at events that have included Grammy Award-winning rappers and high-profile speakers such as Hillary Clinton and Jesse Jackson.
The Presidents Day weekend bash is capped off with a swanky black-tie Scholarship Gala where participants are reminded that they are “changing lives, one scholarship at a time,” according to the group’s Web site and literature.
But in the last two years there has been no cash for scholarships, according to two sources — a former lawmaker, and a community organizer who has relied on the money for needy students since just after the group was founded in 1985.
Federal tax filings confirm that in the 2015-16 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, 2016, the group gave out no educational grants — despite raking in contributions totaling more than $500,000.
“I don’t know what happened,” said Assemblyman Gary Pretlow, a Westchester Democrat and the longtime treasurer for the group. “I just sign the checks they give me to sign.”
While students went without scholarships, the lawmakers at Caucus Weekend 2016 spent $128,000 on “food service,” $36,500 on music and $56,494 on “equipment rental.”
The group failed to furnish The Post with the subsequent year’s tax filings — October 2016 to September 2017 — despite a federal law requiring it to do so.
The group had its charitable status temporarily revoked in 2011 by the IRS after it failed to file tax returns for three consecutive years, according to federal tax documents.
When asked why the group had not given out any money to students in either year — even though scholarships are the heart of its stated mission — the lawmakers who manage the nonprofit refused to answer. The group is chaired by a president who serves a two-year term.
Assemblywoman Latrice Walker, a Brooklyn Democrat, the current chair of the nonprofit’s board, who is campaigning to be the city’s public advocate, said through a spokesman that she “does not have any knowledge of the matter.”
State Sen. Leroy Comrie, a Queens Democrat and second-ranking board executive, did not return phone calls and e-mails, and would not emerge from his St. Albans district office when a Post reporter visited Friday. Queens Assemblywoman Michele Titus, a Democrat and the former chairwoman in 2015-16, did not return messages seeking comment.
Other board members, including former state Comptroller Carl McCall, did not return The Post’s calls. None would provide a copy of their latest tax filings.
“Money comes from the events and we have a lot of bills associated with the events,” Pretlow said.
In the 2014-15 fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2015, the group spent $157,926 on “food service,” $6,332 on limousines and $30,657 on “event decor,” according to tax filings. It also spent $3,000 on the Sunday preacher.
Of the $564,677 the group received in contributions that year, only $35,745 went to scholarships, a little more than 6.3 percent of total revenue.
Charity watchdog groups such as Charity Navigator recommend that at least a third of a nonprofit’s revenues go to its stated purpose.
In the previous fiscal year, 2013-14, the group doled out $32,000 in scholarships out of total contributions of $580,190, tax filings show.
The nonprofit charges sponsors like unions, lobbying firms and corporations up to $50,000 for a “Platinum Package” which includes tickets to workshops on expanding access to government contracts for minority and women-owned businesses, on gun violence, and parties where participants can rub elbows with lawmakers and “ a large community of advocates.”
The weekend is considered a can’t-miss date on the Albany political calendar.
Past weekends have included an exclusive screening of “Black Panther” and an after-party concert by Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick, or Grammy-winning rapper Big Daddy Kane. Speakers have included Gov. Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio, former US Ambassador Andrew Young and TV host and medical-marijuana advocate Montel Williams.