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Post date: July 13 2011

A.G. Schneiderman Taps Rochester Leader For Nonprofit Reform Committee

Schneiderman Team Charged With Improving Regulations & Reducing Burden

Schneiderman: Nonprofits Are Critical Part Of New York’s Economy – Must Ensure They Have Resources To Thrive


ROCHESTER – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced the appointments of Michael Cooney, a Partner at Nixon Peabody LLP, and Jennifer Leonard, President and Executive Director of the Rochester Area Community Foundation, both of Rochester, to serve on his Leadership Committee for Nonprofit Revitalization. Mr. Cooney and Ms. Leonard are two of 29 leaders the Attorney General has charged with providing recommendations to improve nonprofit regulation and enforcement in New York.

"I am pleased Michael and Jennifer will serve with their colleagues across the state to reform the rules of the road so the nonprofit sector can thrive,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “Nonprofits provide critical services to their communities and as the second largest employment sector in the state, their success is crucial to our economy. We can be tough on policing fraud without imposing needless burdens and costs on this vital sector, and the Leadership Committee is a central part of achieving those goals.”

The Attorney General oversees nonprofits operating in New York State, and Schneiderman has made the improvement of nonprofit regulation a priority for his office. Earlier this year, he announced he would convene a group of leaders from New York’s nonprofit, business and labor communities to help eliminate unnecessary bureaucracy that has long plagued nonprofits, such as redundant audits and overlapping reporting requirements, and delays in processing and payment of contracts. The nonprofit sector is the second largest employment sector in the state, providing work for between 17 and 18 percent of New York’s labor force.

“Attorney General Schneiderman’s initiative is a significant step in the direction of effective and fair nonprofit regulation,” Michael Cooney said. “My colleagues and I are eager to work with the Attorney General and his team to deliver the reforms that will help nonprofits better serve their communities.”

“I am proud to work with Attorney General Schneiderman and leaders from across the nonprofit sector to bring much-needed regulatory reforms,” Jennifer Leonard said. “Accountability is an important tool for our work, and addressing key concerns, like reducing burdens in the partnership between New York and nonprofit organizations, will allow them to continue the services that sustain our quality of life in the Empire State." 

Michael Cooneyis a Partner at Nixon Peabody, LLC, in Rochester. Mr. Cooney’s practice includes clients such as private colleges and universities, hospitals and health care systems, social clubs, trade associations, private foundations, and religious organizations. His work on investing and administering donor-restricted or donor-advised funds is nationally known. He has worked on issues such as tax-exemption and private foundation status, joint ventures both between exempt entities and with for-profit partners, and unrelated business income tax. Mr. Cooney is a member of the Community Foundation Legal and Regulatory Standing Committee of the Council on Foundations, and is a former chairperson of the Board of Directors of the Rochester Area Community Foundation.  Currently he is chairperson of the Board of Directors of the World Childhood Foundation, founded by Her Majesty, Queen Silvia of Sweden.

Jennifer Leonard is President and Executive Director of Rochester Area Community Foundation, a $200 million community foundation administering more than 1,000 philanthropic funds. She is the former chair of the field's top policy-making body, the Community Foundations Leadership Team of the Council on Foundations, and helped develop and chaired the implementation of the first national standards for community foundations. Ms. Leonard has served as the vice president of the California Foundation in Los Angeles and previously held national positions with the American Heart Association and The Grantsmanship Center. She received the 2010 Athena Award from the Women’s Council of the Rochester Business Alliance.  In 2007, Rochester Business Journal named Ms. Leonard one of “20 businesspeople who have made the biggest impact on Rochester over the past 20 years.” She is a board member of the Center for Governmental Research and the first female president of the Genesee Valley Club.

The Leadership Committee’s activities will focus on the following:

  • Making recommendations on how to reduce regulatory burdens and more effectively address regulatory concerns;
  • Developing legislative proposals to modernize New York's nonprofit laws that would eliminate outdated requirements and unnecessary burdens; and
  • Proposing measures to enhance board governance and effectiveness, including through new programs to recruit and train nonprofit board members.
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