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CAO not under investigation, did nothing wrong, is victim of illegal acts

Mr. Connors and Mr. Walters,

We submit for your consideration, in the wake of Betty Jean Grant’s op-ed, this Another Voice from CAO board member Angela Blue, who, as you’ll see is also the wife of NAACP President the Rev. Mark E. Blue.

When you declined to print my letter to the editor last week, you said it was because certain facts were in dispute. You then nonetheless let Ms. Grant present the same disputed facts as an Another Voice, which surprisingly endorsed the point of view of the News editorial board, while making up a few facts of her own. Isn’t Another Voice supposed to be for submissions that disagreewith the News editorial board’s view of the facts? Thus we are sending you Ms. Blue’s counter to Ms. Grant’s and your own editorials, and we respectfully ask, because of your own rules of discourse, that you publish it.  And please confirm receipt of this message.

Thank you,

L. Nathan Hare

CEO

CAO not under investigation, did nothing wrong, is victim of illegal acts

By Angela Blue

It’s past time to correct numerous errors in stories, a recent op-ed in this space, and editorials about the Community Action Organization of Western New York, its board and CEO. First, the CAO wants to reassure the public that all its actions in the last year, as prior, were fully reported to the appropriate regulatory agencies, including the New York Department of State [DOS] and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [HHS].

After what amounted to an attempted leadership coup by two board members, an outside counsel’s investigation found these individuals held illegal board meetings after improperly removing other, duly appointed members and adding members never actually elected; did not make required written meeting notices or minutes; and in some cases, self-proclaimed board members fabricated quorums and moved to perform unauthorized actions. By a full board vote on Jan. 7, various members were advised they were not part of the board because of specific legal defects in their election.

            Without an RFP, or authorization beyond their own misrepresentations, two former board members tried to hire a well-known accounting firm to begin a “forensic audit,” which could have cost the agency hundreds of thousands of dollars. They acted without a board vote, without a required RFP, and as soon as the accounting firm discovered their falsehoods, it voided its agreement with the two, who had told firm officials they had board approval. Therefore, when the News reported Feb. 18 that some board members were removed to halt this forensic audit, it is wrong. No audit started, none halted.

In fact, as the CAO does every year, another well-known accounting firm, chosen by RFP and a recorded board vote, was at about the same time, auditing the CAO’s 2018 finances and operations. CAO made that audit public March 11.

            Further, writers would have the public believe that their work led to federal and state agency investigations. Not so. The authentic audit, as it is each year, is shared with state and federal agencies with which the CAO has grant relationships. Representatives from DOS and HHS attended various meetings at CAO in 2019, as in previous years, and were given free reign, as always, to examine CAO finances and programs. No investigations are underway, beyond routine interactions.

            Finally, in editorials and the most recent op-ed, writers continue to use as a red herring that “despite its significant government funding, CAO operates as a nonprofit and is not legally required to open its meetings to the public…” Like this is something unusual, rare or improper? Writers keep trying to single out and isolate CAO as if it were a naughty outlier, when they could name dozens of other non-profits doing good work in our region who operate exactly the same way.

            The News’ entire set of stories is based on a knowingly false narrative promoted primarily by two former board members who wanted to run the agency. They were stopped, for appropriate legal and regulatory reasons, and they, therefore, lack all credibility.

Angela Blue is community outreach specialist in Western and Central New York for the state AFL-CIO and the secretary of the CAO board elected unanimously on Nov. 5, 2018. Her husband is Pastor Mark Blue, president of the Buffalo Branch of the NAACP.  (716) 852-0375 Ext. 17.