Nonprofit accused of using charity money for parties — not grants

ALBANY — A nonprofit run by minority state lawmakers, which for at least two years failed to dole out scholarships to African-American and Hispanic youth, capped off its lavish “Caucus Weekend” Sunday with no mention of student grants.

The New York State Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators typically spends most of its contributions — more than $500,000 in fiscal year 2016-2017 — on three days of workshops, cocktails and its annual Scholarship Dinner Gala, federal filings show.

In the past two years, no money was given to students, according to tax records obtained by The Post.

The nonprofit’s board members — who include former Mayor David Dinkins, former state Comptroller Carl McCall and Brooklyn Assemblywoman Latrice Walker, its chair — have refused to comment on why the group has failed to provide funds to needy students.

The group’s longtime treasurer, Westchester Assemblyman Gary Pretlow, told dozens of conference delegates at a Sunday church service featuring Democratic Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie that 90 percent of the nonprofit’s donations go to put on the annual event.

Pretlow then exhorted delegates “to reach deep into your pockets” to contribute as white-gloved ushers went up and down the aisles of the Wilborn Temple First Church of God with wicker baskets as a choir sang “Get on Your Knees and Pray.”

There was no mention of scholarships.

Some delegates, who included Democratic lawmakers as well as union representatives and lobbyists, told The Post they were upset about being asked to contribute even more cash to the group.

This year a mandatory $25 registration fee was added to attend conference events and networking cocktail and dance parties sponsored by lobbyists and politicians at the Albany Hilton.

Delegates paid up to $530 for the weekend conference package, which did not include accommodations, according to the group’s Web site. Tickets for the scholarship gala were $225 each.

More than 1,000 delegates packed the Empire State Plaza Convention Center on Sunday for a three-course meal hosted by Miss America Nia Franklin and including two of the event’s corporate sponsors, AMC and OvationTV. The dinner featured speeches by Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries.

When first contacted by The Post in December 2018 about the group’s failure to dole out scholarships, Pretlow said, “I just sign the checks they give me to sign.”

Founded in 1985 “to empower African-American and Latino youth . . . by providing opportunity to higher education,” the nonprofit has given out only a small percentage of its donations to students in the past.

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