The Puerto Rican Day Parade has a new board, and tighter oversight. State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman made the announcement Thursday, as he detailed how the group overseeing the annual event allowed an outside agent to pilfer money, a story first reported on NY1. Josh Robin filed the following report.
Viva el desfile. The parade goes on.
State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says this time, the group behind it can be trusted.
"I'm confident that this board will demonstrate the kind of skill and the kind of integrity we should all be looking for in a cultural institution this important,” said Schneiderman.
Officials say under the previous board's nose, its business agent bilked it out of a million dollars by underreporting his fundraising haul. Schneiderman says fundraiser Carlos Velasquez withheld about $1 million from the organization, spent money intended for scholarships on parade floats and used donated airline vouchers for personal travel.
Schneiderman ousted three of the board's six current directors, adding ten new ones.
The agent, identified as Carlos Velasquez, is forgoing $1 million in unpaid bills and paying the group another $100,000.
"As speaker of the City Council and as a Puerto Rican, I definitely am committed to ensuring that efforts are put to make this board succeed and making sure that the 2014 parade moves forward,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.
Velasquez has worked on more than just the Puerto Rican day parade, he also is said to have done work on the Dominican day parade in both the Bronx, and Manhattan. So will there be shakeups there too? Schneiderman says he won't comment on ongoing investigations.
Velasquez didn't return a call Thursday.
The ousted president continued to cast herself as a scapegoat. Though Madelyn Lugo admits there may have more she could have done.
"We don't have committed any fraud, any criminal charges so why we cannot we stay in the organization?" said Lugo.
For an answer, Schneiderman deferred to former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer.
"Just because something has been done wrong for years, doesn't give you license to do something wrong for six more months,” said Ferrer.
Some aren't convinced.
At his own news conference, Bronx State Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. says Lugo is being targeted.
He points out the board another charity wasn't removed when its leader was recently arrested.
"There's racism here, discrimination and persecution,” said Diaz.
The attorney general's office says the two cases are different and have nothing to do with race.