- Last Updated: 4:03 AM, June 3, 2012
- Posted: 12:38 AM, June 3, 2012
INSIDE CITY HALL
The price for restoring integrity at the much-investigated Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council is $2.5 million and counting.
Tax returns filed last month by the politically connected nonprofit show that’s the staggering sum it spent in legal fees for the year ending June 30, 2011, a period when it came under intense scrutiny for operating with a clueless board that allowed the executive director to collect $782,000 in total compensation the previous year.
The director, Christiana Fisher, happened to be the campaign treasurer for Brooklyn Democratic leader Vito Lopez, the nonprofit’s founder.
The agency’s housing director, Angela Battaglia, happened to be Lopez’s girlfriend. She took in $329,910. A scathing Department of Investigation report convinced city officials to demand a “corrective action plan” and a staff shake-up that led Fisher to step down last January.
The tax returns showed the overhaul did not come cheaply.
Dechert LLP, a Midtown law firm, was paid $1,167,478 for its services during the period.
Schlam Stone & Dolan, a downtown law firm, took in $1,129,296. When all the legal expenses were counted the bills came to more than $2.5 million of Ridgewood Bushwick’s $19.1 million budget.
The agency reported ending the year with a $3,248,070 deficit.
Ariana Pacheco, the administrative manager, said in an e-mail that the payouts were for “legal representation in connection with investigations and negotiations regarding management improvement . . .”
An agency lawyer insisted that none of the money came from the $14.7 million in government contracts received by Ridgewood Bushwick that year.
“It was all from reserves accrued over a 38-year period,” said the lawyer.
City officials said it would have been illegal for the agency to use any of its funds on the lawyers.
Nevertheless, when the agency was in investigators’ cross hairs in 2010, the city refused to cut it loose.
“There is no other organization at the moment capable of providing the services to the community that really needs it,” Mayor Bloomberg, who formerly was close to Lopez, declared in October 2010.
Those words are now contained on the agency’s Web site under the heading, “Mayor Offers Praise for Ridgewood Bushwick.”
But when Lopez held his annual senior-citizen picnic on Long Island last July under the Ridgewood Bushwick banner, the mayor was a no-show for the first time in years.
Asked if Bloomberg would be going to this summer’s event, a mayoral spokesman refused comment.