Former New York Arts Club President Agrees to Pay Nearly $1M for Using the Club as a Personal Checking Account

Categories: Creeps, The Arts

The National Art Club's tony interior.
At a time when the National Endowment for the Arts has had so much downward pressure on its fundingthat Kickstarter has become a better source of funding for creative projects, people grifting our local cultural institutions should piss us the hell off. Yesterday, the New York state attorney general announced a settlement with Aldon James, former president of the National Arts Club here in New York City, to repay $900,000 in misused funds to the club and $50,000 for wasting everybody else's time.

James, his twin brother, John, and colleague Steven Leitner had been using the club's properties as their own without paying rent, using $274,000 earmarked for dramatic arts grants on renovating the club's building, and hording antiques and vintage wares bought during shopping sprees on the club's dime.

The National Arts Club, around since 1898, booted the Aldons and Leitner from their club-owned apartments last month. James was removed from the presidency two years ago, when allegations of impropriety first surfaced. He'd served as president since 1985.

To make sure that the three men get the point, the A.G. has banned them from the club and from every holding office in a New York state nonprofit ever again.

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When the James Brothers starting running the club, it was empty. No one was there. It was a very dead place. They built it into a vibrant organization with multiple, packed events every single nights and a profitable catering business on the weekends for weddings. If they had not done this, there would be nothing to fight over. It's a private club, not a public art institution. You know what worries me? When I get a bid from a moving company, it's always a much lower price than I wind up paying---let's focus on problems like that.

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