Streams

Vito Lopez's Non-profits: Investigation Widening, Money Freezing

Friday, September 24, 2010

Everyone says they'll tackle corruption - even within their own party. Enter Vito Lopez. He's the Brooklyn Democratic County Leader whose well-funded, sprawling network of non-profits seems to be testing that notion.

Lopez founded the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Center Council before getting elected to the Assembly in 1984. As Lopez rose through the ranks, the organization expanded, and took in more and more public funds. It gets $75 million a year from the city and $25 million a year from the state. 

But oversight at the organization has been lacking. 

Lopez's campaign treasurer draws a six-figure salary from the non-profit. So does Lopez's girlfriend. And, as the New York Post reported, 7 of 9 board of directors supposedly overseeing the organization, had no clue what the group was doing, or where the money was going.

Now, new money heading to the group is being held up.

A spokesperson for Mayor Bloomberg says they're holding up new contracts with the group until the state attorney general gives the organization a clean bill of health. Cuomo has staked his gubernatorial candidacy on fixing the "swamp of corruption" that is Albany.

The state comptroller, Tom DiNapoli, is up for statewide election for the first time, and has added an "additional layer of review" on the group. DiNapoli, it should be noted, got into the comptroller's office when Lopez and other colleagues selected DiNapoli to finish the barely-started term of Alan Hevesi, who left after his own financial scandal.

And the attorney general candidates are getting into the act. Already, the Staten Island District Attorney, Republican Dan Donovan, is prosecuting a former Ridgewood Bushwick employee who submitted 50 photocopies of the same timesheet, trying to prove the karate program she was teaching was attended by dozens of kids.

Donovan is handling the case after the Brooklyn District Attorney, Democrat Joe Hynes, asked to be taken off the case, citing his close relationship with Lopez.

The Democratic Attorney General candidate, Eric Schneiderman, told reporters he'd investigate the organization if there was evidence of wrongdoing.

For Republicans, Lopez and the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council is just the latest face on an ever-growing list of state officials who've gotten tangled up on the wrong side of the law.

The list includes Governor Eliot Spitzer, Governor David Paterson, State Comptroller Alan Hevesi, State Senator Pedro Espada, State Senator Kevin Parker (who Donovan is prosecuting later this year for assaulting a New York Post photographer), State Senator Hiram Monserrate, State Senator Diane Gordon, Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin, and Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio - just to name a few.

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Comments [2]

Marco Public from NYC

Vito Lopez is Exhibit #1 on why New York State's toothless (and nearly non-existent) ethics and conflict of interest laws need to be strengthened and enforced - and he should be given his free housing behind bars.

Of the other names mentioned in the piece, its important to distinguish between the personal moral failings of Governor Spitzer and Paterson, and the stealing from public resources and subversion of the public will of people like (soon to be former) State Senator Pedro Espada, and King Vito who, like Espada in the State Senate chairs the Assembly Housing Committee and presents himself as God's gift to tenants -- but uses his influence to be sure that all of the "pro-Tenant" Assembly bills never get past the Senate Housing Committee or get the needed votes if they ever come to the Senate Floor.

Sep. 25 2010 01:07 PM
UNKNOWN

WOW, I KNOW PEOPLE THAT WORK FOR RIDGEWOOD BUSHWICK AND THEY ARE BEING GIVEN ADDITIONAL JOBS TO THEIR CURRENT ONE WITH PROMISE OF INCREASE IN SALARY BUT THEN THEY ARE TOLD THAT THERE IS NO MONEY IN THE BUDGET TO PAY THEM SO THEY STILL HAVE TO DO THE JOB. I SEE WHY THERE IS NO MONEY CAUSE THE DIRECTOR IS GETTING PAID....WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE WHEN THE DIRECTOR MAKE OVER 6 HUNDRED THOUSAND IN A YEAR BUT THERE IS NO MONEY FOR INCREASE IN PAY FOR THE EMPLOYEES? HMMMMM

Sep. 24 2010 11:52 PM

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