It was once the leading gay and lesbian organization for the borough.
But with the arrest last year – and sentencing last week of its executive director for embezzling funds, Bronx Community Pride Center no longer exists.
Other organizations are now struggling to take its place, but without the same seeming level of success as a political voice in the borough to fight for equal rights and against discrimination.
One chapter closed on April 1 as the former head of the now dormant lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community organization was sentenced to two to six years in state prison for embezzling $143,000 from the group.
Lisa Winters was sentenced by Bronx state Supreme Court Justice Martin Marcus after she pleaded guilty in February to one count of grand larceny, a class C felony, said City Department of Investigations Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn,.
As part of her plea, Winters admitted to embezzling approximately $143,000 in charitable assets from Bronx Community Pride Center (“Bronx Pride”), a not-for-profit organization that received City Council discretionary funding through the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development to serve the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in the Bronx.
Winters, 49, was charged in a 25-count indictment in June 2012.
As part of the embezzlement scheme, she issued checks from Bronx Pride’s operating account to herself and to purchase personal dog-walking services, and a personal trip to Africa.
Additionally, Winters issued $43,437 in Bronx Pride checks to pay for expenses on her personal credit card and she incurred numerous charges on Bronx Pride’s corporate debit card and credit card for personal expenses, including clothing, pet care and veterinary services, and domestic and foreign personal travel including The Turks & Caicos and the United Kingdom.
The case was prosecuted by Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson’s office.
“This defendant was supposed to safeguard the nonprofit she managed. Instead, she pilfered taxpayer dollars to pay for a $25,000 trip to Africa, thousands of dollars in clothing, and nearly $20,000 for pet care and veterinary services, among other items,” said DOI’s Hearn. “The City has zero tolerance for nonprofit executives who use their positions to steal public funds and deprive the communities they are supposed to serve. This prison sentence is a fitting reminder of the high cost of such crimes.”
The LGBTQ community is still regrouping from the loss of Bronx Pride.
A board of directors has formed to create a new Bronx LGBTQ Center, said activist and board member Tym Moss.
“I feel the ruling was fair,” said Moss, adding that he had not met Winters. “I am grateful that we can now close this chapter and move on. It is always sad when people have lost their way and need to be disciplined for it. I hope she learns from this experience.”
On the upside, Moss and his associates are now in the process of forming a new organization.
“It is a membership-based organization, and each member has a vote,” said Moss, noting that the new group will have no affiliation with Bronx Pride.
Lewis Goldstein, an east Bronx LGBTQ community advocate and a Community Board 10 member, stated in an e-mail that while he was not yet involved in creating a new LGBTQ and friends organization in the borough, he was looking forward to getting involved in a new organization.
Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 742-3393