Wakefield Area News
By Mary V. Lauro
BRONX, NEW YORK, August 8- In a recent editorial, the Daily News suggested that all Member Items be eliminated. We tend to agree. In many cases they are a waste of our money. They are sometimes used, as reported in the case of Councilman Larry Seabrook, to fatten the politician's wallet or reward his friends and relatives or, as is often the case, to buy the good will of a community in order to garner its votes at election time. It is only rarely that a politician will act without self-interest. When he does, he becomes a statesman.
What is a member item? It is an amount of money which an assemblyman, senator or councilperson is able to include in that year's budget for use by a favored group. The favored group must apply and frequently has to jump through hoops before the grant is appropriated. Thus the Bronx Business Alliance (BBA) under the leadership of Margaret Arrighi (CEO) and Kathy Zamachanski (consultant) received beaucoup funds from Albany and the City Council.
As we already reported, in previous columns, Arrighi had contempt for any interference in her alleged schemes. When she decided, and stated in a letter, that the best thing that could happen to White Plains Road was the construction of a 70-unit supportive housing for HIV/AIDs patients on White Plains Road opposite the Food Town Supermarket, it was time to look at corporation papers and By-laws. We found the By-laws were a pastiche of some old merchants association By-laws and the opening clauses of By-laws of the very people who were going to build that 70-unit HIV/AIDs housing! How enormously strange, would you not say?
One of the opening clauses of the By-laws said the corporation had no members which is at it should be, but in later clauses it speaks of members. Indeed, it states that the members of the Board of Directors are chosen on a yearly basis by the members of the organization at the January meeting! Plainly, this whole operation was illicit, yet it was receiving thousands of dollars from various government sources.
John Bonizio and this writer tried to rewrite those By-laws for which consent of the existing BoD was needed. Because Arrighi insisted on retaining Board members who never appeared at meetings, it was not possible to legalize the operation. John Bonizio, a very able and trustworthy person resigned in a year's time.
At this point, I inherited the position of President of the BoD of an illicit operation. Since Senator Klein was one of the main sources of funding for the BBA, I turned to him for assistance in legalizing the operation. Unfortunately, I had to deal with his assistant, John Doyle who, at first saw nothing wrong with the By-Laws which he had obviously not read. When sent to him again at a later date, he insisted that Senator Klein's office did not deal with internal affairs of organization as if Klein's funding a member item of $200,000 was not dealing with internal affairs. Furthermore, at this time, which was during the Woodlawn fracas, Doyle had requested and received a copy of the Woodlawn By-laws which he said was to assist them in becoming a 501C3 organization. He did not consider that as interfering with internal affairs. Did he not know that corporation papers, not By-laws, determine 501C3 eligibility? The point here is that if proper attention had been given, BBA might still exist.
I resigned one day before Arrighi. The BBA is no more. But, I cannot end without pointing out that Arrighi suffered greatly when Governor Patterson froze all member items in the 2009 budget. Arrighi went without pay for two and half years. Her house went into foreclosure. And her health deteriorated.