LGBT Center's Cindi Creager Admits 'Just' Blocking Journalist From Facebook Wall (and Other Things We Learned On a Surprise Visit)

Cindi Creager, the Center's spokeswoman, is no fan of speaking to the press!
As we began to delve into the depressing implosion of the Bronx Pride Center, which closed after former head Lisa Winters was charged with embezzling $338,000, we remembered how easy it is for non-profits lacking proper oversight (gay and straight) to do grave harm to their communities.

So, we decided to step things up with our coverage of the city's main LGBT Center, which doesn't have public board meetings, hasn't answered a questions of ours in a year, and recently blocked people from commenting on their Facebook wall.

Actually, it seems, they only block the Voice from commenting on their Facebook wall, something we had to show up in the office of their communications person, Cindi Creager, to discover. (And let us tell you, the spokeswoman was none to pleased to have to speak to an actual member of press.)

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LGBT Center Shuts Off Facebook Comments to Avoid Questions from the Voice as Bronx Pride Center Closes in Scandal [UPDATED]

via LGBT press page
Glennda Testone: why won't the LGBT Center's leader speak to the press?

Update: Turns out others can comment on the Center's Facebook wall -- they've "just" blocked a journalist, to keep any questions from being asked!

Something very strange is happening on 13th Street at the LGBT Center. As a scourge is affecting LGBT organizations -- the Bronx Pride Center shut down yesterday, amid charges its director, Lisa Winters embezzled $338,000 -- the city's main LGBT Center refuses to speak to the press.

As we wrote in last week's Voice feature "Does 'Gay Inc.' Believe in Free Speech?" the Center clamped down a year ago and refused to allow any discussion of the Israel/Palestine situation. This flies in the face of decades of queer people being able to discuss the important issues of the day on a variety of gay-specific and non-specific topics.

But just as disturbingly to us (for obviously personal reasons) is that the Center refuses to speak to the Voice about anything, or to answer any questions from press as far as we can tell. This could be because of critical things we've said about Executive Director Glennda Testone and her leadership (or lack thereof) over free speech at the Center.

But the Center does get a huge amount of public money (about $2.75 million a year, according to the most recent publicly available tax filings), and Testone is paid a little more than Governor Andrew Cuomo (we'll have more about this in the coming days), so we think it's entirely appropriate she and her paid, full-time spokeswoman would take questions from the press (or at least from the Voice, the first paper to cover Stonewall and a major publication in the neighborhood where the Center resides). The Center has refused to speak to us for a year, but as the Bronx burns with its Pride Center shuttering due to financial matters involving its leader, it's imperative that the partially publicly funded LGBT Center answer questions.

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WNYC: The City's Largest Private Employer Is The Nonprofit Sector

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A fascinating story on WNYC this morning: a new report finds that the city's largest private employer is the nonprofit sector.

When we wrote our cover story "The Nonprofit 1 Percent," we saw that there are some lucrative posts at the top of some of the city's nonprofit organizations. But we didn't learn, until WNYC reported today on a study by the Fiscal Policy Institute, that nonprofits are the main private employers for workers of all kinds in the city. They play a huge role in the city's private workforce, especially in the outer boroughs and among female workers and workers of color.

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Jewish Guild For The Blind Hires Back Music Therapist For Seniors After Voice Investigation

Arlene Gottfried
Debbie Moran, at the piano, will be reunited with the blind seniors she's worked with for 20 years
We've got some good news to report this Friday: the Jewish Guild for the Blind has hired back its music therapist, Debbie Moran, after a cover story and an on-going series in the Voice highlighted problems at the nonprofit organization.

In March the Voice reported how Moran, who had worked with elderly, blind seniors as the Guild's music therapist and choirmaster for 20 years, had been laid off, even though the part-time employee earned only about $5,000 a year. The reason cited for Moran's axing was "Medicaid budget cuts," even though a review of the nonprofit's tax filings by the Voice seemed to show no such apparent cuts (a fact recently confirmed by government sources), and despite the fact that the group's CEO, Dr. Alan Morse, had received an 82% compensation increase just two years ago, bringing his pay up to over $1.5 million annually.

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Karaoke For The Blind? Jewish Guild Axes Music Therapy Due To Budget Woes, Pays For Karaoke No One Can See (Part 3)

Part 3 in a series. (Part 1 is here, part 2 here.)

Despite being axed by the Jewish Guild for the Blind after working as their part-time music therapist for two decades, and despite having the organization lie to her clients that she cancelled on them, music therapist Debbie Moran is lobbying on behalf of the group.

She has started without malie a petition to "Restore Medicaid Funding for Elderly Blind."

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Karaoke For The Blind? Jewish Guild Cancels Music Event, Lies to Elderly About Why (Part 2)

Arlene Gottfied
The Guild told its clients that music therapist Debbie Moran, left, had cancelled on them, when in fact the Guild cancelled on her

Part 2 in a series. Part 1 can be read here.

Blind GuildCare client Rachel Gonzalez hoped things would blow over after their final concert, and that at the very least, music therapist Debbie Moran would be back for a St. Patrick's Day sing-a-long. After all the, Guild had told her in December that even though they were axing thrice weekly music therapy sessions, "Debbie would be back six times a year" for one offs.

But it was not to be.

According to Gonzalez, the week before St. Patrick's Day, she and others were trying to pick some music to sing when they'd have the rare chance to reunite with their music therapist.

"They don't mention to anybody that Debbie is not coming," Gonzalez says. Then, at the last minute, "they change the entertainment, and they tell everybody that Debbie cancelled."

Gonzalez was horrified that the Guild management told people their therapist of 20 years had cancelled on them for two reasons. First, it hurt the elderly, blind people deeply to think she had abandoned them on the one occasion they could see her again.

Two, it was a bald-faced lied.

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Karaoke For The Blind? Jewish Guild For the Blind Thinks Client's Vision Problems Make Her Mentally Deficient (Part 1)

Arlene Gottfied
Rachel Gonzalez, left, performing in the GuildCare Choir's final concert
Part 1 in a series. Part 2 can be read here.

Last month, the Voice reported how the Jewish Guild for the Blind cut its part-time music therapist Debbie Moran, who was earning about $5,000 a year, allegedly due to "Medicaid budget cuts" -- despite the fact that the nonprofit's CEO, Dr. Alan Morse, had recently seen an 82% pay increase from $843,000 annually to $1.5 million.

The Guild still planned to bring Moran in six times per year on special occasions, even though they were cutting the thrice weekly music therapy program. Now, the Voice has learned, because of our article, the Guild has cancelled even those special sessions (and lied to their blind, mostly elderly clients about why they were cancelled) apparently out of a mixture of spite and not wanting to lose any money if clients revolted.

Also, the Voice has learned that even though the Guild allegedly didn't have money to keep paying for music therapy, the organization does have money for karaoke...which, of course, the blind clients can't see or participate in.

"How the devil am I supposed to do karaoke? Have you forgotten that half of us are blind?" Guild client Rachel Gonzalez asked with exasperation in a recent phone interview.

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The Voice Talks "The Nonprofit 1 Percent" and Trayvon Martin On WWRL With Yetta Kurland [AUDIO]

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Last night, the Voice was invited to appear on Yetta Kurland Live on WWRL to talk about this week's cover story, "The Nonprofit 1 Percent," as well as to discuss the rally for Trayvon Martin, which we'd just covered prior to arriving at the studio.

Kurland spoke with us about the Jewish Guild for Blind and the income disparity between some of its lowest paid employees (who were laid off) and its CEO, Dr. Alan Morse, who was paid $1.5 million in 2009, receiving an 82% raise the year after the financial crash. Guild music therapist Debbie Moran, laid off despite only earning $5,000 a year, called in to the show to talk about her choir members, whom she'd worked with for 20 years prior to receiving a pink slip.

Kurland also discussed the overlap between Occupy Wall Street and how the income disparities the movement has pointed out in the finance sector also seem to happen within the nonprofit world.

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The Jewish Guild For the Blind and Homes For the Homeless: See The Tax Returns Of Your Tax Dollars At Work

In this week's Voice cover story, we take a look at "The Nonprofit 1%," those people who head tax-exempt organizations which pay them so well, they're in the top one percent of earners. We take a particularly close look at the Jewish Guild for the Blind, where a $5,000 a year part-time music therapist is given the axe while the CEO earns up to $1.5 million per year, and also at Homes for the Homeless, where the CEO earns more than the President of the United States even though nearly 96 percent of the revenue is from government funds.

Thanks to the Internet, there are a plethora of great tools which can tell you about non-profits, so you can know where your donations and/or tax dollars are going. Charity Navigator lets you see things like what percentage of a non-profit's budget goes to administration, while GuideStar allows you to see income tax returns for non-profits.

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