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Bronx Community Pride Center closes

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What a shame!

Bronx Community Pride Center will be closing its doors after 16 years because of financial difficulties and alleged looting of its funds by a former executive director.

Now the group’s leaders are working to make sure its clients find needed services elsewhere in the borough.

Former executive director Lisa Winters, who was fired in January 2010 according to published reports, appears to have drove it under.

The board of directors of BCPC, which had been the borough’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning service organization, unanimously voted to cease operations at its headquarters at 448 E. 149th Street, and shift the services it provides over to partner organizations as it no longer has enough cash to continue.

“As BCPC closes, I ask that all Bronx LGBTQ organizations come together and fill the void that would be left behind,” said board chairman Antonio Centeno Jr.

“The board of directors is committed to assisting in any way to make sure that our clients continue to be served, especially since this population is traditionally under served in the Bronx,” said Centeno. “We’re a group of caring individuals, and this decision has been difficult for us to make, but we will never give up for our mission of heath equality,”

The closing comes on the heels of criminal charges filed Friday, June 15, against Lisa Winters, BCPC’s former executive director.

The complaint filed by District Attorney Rob Johnson’s office charges her with grand larceny 2 and falsifying businesses records.

It alleges that Winters stole more than $143,000 between March 2006 and March 2010 and falsified records to hide the theft.

A separate city Department of Investigation inquiry found that Waters used even more money, $338,674 of Bronx Pride funds for personal expenses, starting from her appointment as interim director in 2005 up to 2009. That investigation was conducted on behalf of the city Department of Youth and Community Development after officials were alerted by a board member of possible malfeasance.

The criminal complaint charges that among checks and withdrawals made on BCPC accounts by Winters were $15,953 for a dog walker; $25,751 for a trip to Africa; $4,681 for trips to England, North Carolina, South Carolina, and the Turks & Caicos; $9,332 for pet care; $9,604 for veterinary services; $10,494 for clothing; $43,437 to pay Winters’ credit card bills; and more than $24,000 in checks made payable to Lisa Winters.

East Bronx LGBTQ community activist Lewis Goldstein said the Pride Center served diverse segments of the community over the years.

“I am very saddened about BCPC closing,” Goldstein said. “It has served LGBTQ youth, seniors and others extremely well over the years. It is a great loss not only to the LGBTQ community, but to the Bronx as a whole.”

As for Winters, Goldstein said if she is convicted, a “stiff sentence is due and she would need to make restitution.”

“Hopefully BCPC can be resurrected in the future,” Goldstein said.

Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at procchio@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3393
Posted 12:00 am, July 7, 2012
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