Attorney General James Announces Agreement with New York State Association of Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Legislators to Improve Governance

Association to Address Governance Concerns, Elect New Members to Board of Directors, Adopt Amended Bylaws, and Formalize Scholarship Program

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today announced an agreement with the New York State Association of Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Legislators, Inc. (ABPRHAL) to resolve concerns regarding the association’s governance and financial reporting. The ABPRHAL did not have full-time employees or sufficient oversight, causing the association to suffer a breakdown in leadership and repeatedly file inaccurate financial audits and disclosures to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG). Pursuant to the agreement, ABPRHAL and Chairwoman Latrice Walker agreed to elect new directors to its board, adopt amended bylaws to codify its leadership structure, and formalize its scholarship program. Some of these measures have already been adopted. 

“The Association of Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Legislators provides important services and opportunities to communities of color statewide, but without full-time leadership, the organization struggled to prepare financial filings and properly administer scholarships,” said Attorney General James. “All charitable organizations are required to comply with the same laws in our state. Under this agreement and with new bylaws, ABPRHAL will be able to continue its great contributions to New York.”

The ABPRHAL was founded in 1985 by members of the New York State Assembly legislative caucus of the same name with a mission to promote the social and general welfare of communities of color, encourage economic development, and support the fight for racial justice. Each year, the association sponsors an annual conference that convenes community leaders from throughout the state and holds a fundraising gala to support its scholarship program.  

From Fiscal Year 2015 through Fiscal Year 2017, ABPRHAL did not have any full-time employees, but paid an independent contractor to act as Executive Director. At the time, the Board of Directors did not exercise sufficient supervision of the Executive Director or the association’s operations and finances. As a result, the annual financial reports filed with OAG's Charities Bureau were both inaccurate and incomplete. Additionally, the association did not have a formal, objective process for awarding scholarships, instead authorizing individual members to select recipients from a pool of applicants rather than have the board or a delegated committee select recipients based on objective criteria. Scholarships awarded in 2017 and 2018 were not paid to the recipients until 2019 and 2020.

Pursuant to the agreement, ABPRHAL has agreed to revise its bylaws, policies, and procedures. These amended bylaws will include the following requirements and provisions: 

  • No less than one-third of all Directors of the Board must be independent as defined by New York’s Not-For-Profit Corporation Law; 
  • One independent Director must be present for there to be a quorum to conduct the Board’s business; 
  • A complete description of ABPRHAL’s governance structure; 
  • Definition of the roles and policies of the association’s committees, officers, directors, members, and employees; and 
  • The association’s annual audit and IRS Form 990 will be prepared on an accrual basis, the former by a certified public accountant. 

As part of the agreement, ABPRHAL will formalize its scholarship program by: 

  • Setting forth detailed qualifications for receiving an ABPRHAL scholarship; 
  • Establishing standard procedures and a timeline for applying for the scholarships; 
  • Revising the scholarship application form; and  
  • Posting all available scholarships on the association’s website. 

Any fundraising related to the scholarship program will include a full description of the scholarship and the date on which it will be awarded. Scholarship recipients will be selected by the Board or a dedicated committee using objective criteria.  

The ABPRHAL will maintain all records related to its operations for a minimum period of six years, to be provided upon request to OAG to verify compliance with the agreement. 

This matter was handled for the Charities Bureau by Assistant Attorney General Steven Shiffman and Deputy Bureau Chief Karin Kunstler Goldman under the supervision of Bureau Chief James Sheehan. The Charities Bureau is a part of the Division for Social Justice, which is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Meghan Faux and overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.