Thursday, September 30, 2010

6th Annual Gala for the Mohawk Valley Latino Association

The Mohawk Valley Latino Association’s annual Hispanic Heritage Celebration will conclude with a dance event on Saturday, October 9, 2010. It will be a celebration of Hispanic culture featuring exhibitions of various Latin dances by professional and amateur dancers, as well as a performance by the Latino Association’s own children’s dance group – Ritmo Caribeno.


Saturday, October 9, 2010 at the Alumni Center at Mohawk Valley Community College
1101 Sherman Drive Utica, NY
6:00pm - midnight

$35 per person, $60 per couple, $250 for table of 8, $25 for students with I.D. and seniors

Dinner with special Hispanic dishes - Cash Bar - Dessert - DJ & Dancing - Performance by Ritmo Caribeno

See our talented professional and amateur dancers showcase the hottest Latin dances, learn about their origin and then hit the floor yourself and DANCE!

The Dancers

- Dr. Aymme Belen & Dr. Martin Morell dance the Bachata
- David & Marilyn Katz dance the Cha Cha
- Sam Jones & Sandy DePerno dance the Merengue
- Tony Colon & Beth Soggs dance the Salsa
- Frank Elias, Cassandra Harris-Lockwood & Evon Ervin dance the Tango
- Cristina Nudo, Cira Foster, Stephany Rodriguez and Lazaro Miranda dance a Cuban Rumba show
Choreography by Miss Laurie Hotaling


Call 738-1083 ext. 147 or email

What does the Latino Association do?

Our mission is to improve the standards of living for ALL residents of the Mohawk Valley through various services that will help educate, achieve awareness among the different cultures, help shape the young minds and highlight the great opportunities available in the Mohawk Valley.

MVLA has increased the awareness in our communities by establishing programs such as:

• Spanish GED Instructions

• Referrals to ESL adult classes and American citizenship classes

• Access to health care insurance and affordable housing

• Self Improvement Focus meeting groups (Financial Literacy, Travel and Membership)

• Founded a children’s dance group to increase awareness of the Latino cultural history and enrich the youth in our community

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Nonprofit Resources Regarding the October 15 Deadline

Time is running out for small nonprofits facing loss of tax-exempt status because they have not filed Form 990-N or Form 990-EZ for three consecutive years. The deadline for the IRS's one-time filing relief program is October 15, 2010. After that, nonprofits that are required to file a 990 and whose filings are at least three years in arrears will automatically lose their exemptions. To regain tax-exempt status, they will have to apply to the IRS all over again, a process that can take several months and requires payment of fees. To help you make sense of the rules and regulations surrounding this program, GuideStar is offering you a few resources:
  • GuideStar Resource Center: includes articles and links to keep you updated in this ongoing process.
  • IRS Communications Toolkit: includes facts outlining the situation, a list of organizations IRS records show are at risk, a YouTube video, and a widget for posting on Web sites.
  • Guide Star Charity Check: includes information on exemption status of organizations and is updated as more information from the IRS becomes available.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

CHAIRity auction draws artists and patrons Sculpture Space

The OD reported that Sculpture Space’s signature CHAIRity event is turning 21, and organizers are betting on success with a gaming-themed fundraiser.

Attendees will be able to participate in games of chance before the annual live art auction.

“The entire space is transformed; it looks like a nightclub,” said Sculpture Space Executive Director Sydney Waller.

“Lord knows what they’re going to do with 22,” she added with a laugh.

But that’s jumping ahead. This year’s event is from 4 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 25, at Sculpture Space, 12 Gates St. in Utica.

The highlight of the evening is the live CHAIRity auction, which will take place during the last two hours, from 6 to 8 p.m. Proceeds from auction of chairs and other original artwork including tables, ceramics and two-dimensional art benefit Sculpture Space’s artist in residence program.

“Our goal is that we can fully fund all 20 artists’ fellowships,” Waller said.

“One of the things I love about CHAIRity is there’s such a wonderful mix of artists from here in the Mohawk Valley (featuring the) skill and creativity that’s right here in the area and then some of our alumni send in work … ,” Waller said.

Chairs can cost anywhere from $100 to thousands of dollars, Waller said.

She added that the auction is a place for savvy collectors, because often pieces are sold for a fraction of what their true value is.

From 4 to 6 p.m., patrons will have an opportunity to bid on services and smaller objects, like handcrafted jewelry, and services donated by local businesses in a silent auction.

Waller said local artist Joel Grimaldi, who has become a favorite among bidders, will be back this year. Grimaldi almost always wins The Mayor’s Award, given to the artist whose piece garnered the highest bid at the previous year’s event.

Another item to watch for is The Community Foundation of Herkimer & Oneida Counties’ Endowed Chair, which is being designed by Albany-area artist Abraham Ferraro.

Waller described Ferraro as a “superior craftsman and conceptual artist,” who was challenged “to design a chair that expresses the attributes of The Community Foundation,” Waller said.

“How to make something visual out of concepts like philanthropy and legacy is interesting,” she said.

Along with the games of chance, those attending can take a chance on the Sculpture Space Grand Getaway Drawing; 125 $100 tickets will be sold.

The winner can choose one of six getaway packages – ranging from a week in Calabria, Italy, for four (transportation not included) to an olive oil tasting and opera concert in your own home.

But for those who aren’t bidding, Waller said, CHAIRity still has something to offer: A good time.

Along with the games, enjoy free hors d’oeuvres provided by area restaurants and a cash bar.

“Sculpture Space is famous for its parties,” Waller said. “We want to knock ourselves out for a really good time in exchange for somebody’s $30.”

Hage charges city of Utica $177,118 for Gro West investigation

The OD reported that details of Hage & Hage LLC.’s substantially discounted but still pricey legal bill for the GroWest investigation were finally made public Friday.

The final tally: $177,118.

The news did nothing, however, to calm the uncertainty surrounding the situation since April. City Comptroller Michael Cerminaro, whose office was held partly to blame by the law firm for failing to recognize the issues at GroWest, Inc., said again his office will not cut the check.

The reason, he said, is that investigations by the FBI and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development made the Hage & Hage probe unnecessary.

“Here the proper investigation is still going on, and we have this political investigation to bloody up (Mayor David Roefaro’s) quote-unquote political enemies,” Cerminaro said. “But yet, I’m supposed to pay this guy?”

Cerminaro said he will defend that decision in court, if need be.

Hage & Hage, run by J.K. Hage III, was hired by both the GroWest board of directors and the city in April, though the city alone will foot the bill.

The firm’s eventual report, delivered in August to the Common Council, found widespread misuse of federal money administered to the nonprofit housing rehabilitation agency from 2000 to 2009. It found blame with the agency itself, and with various city departments, and indicated possible criminal activity by former contractors.

City Corporation Counsel Linda Sullivan Fatata, whose office technically represents both the mayor and comptroller, said she would take Cerminaro to court if she must to force him to pay the bill. She pointed out the hiring of Hage & Hage was approved by the city Board of Estimate and Apportionment.

And she said if the situation ends up in court, Cerminaro would need his own legal counsel, meaning the expense of more taxpayer dollars. Ironically, Cerminaro would likely need E&A approval to hire his own lawyer, she said.

“I hate to see it come to that,” she said.

Both Fatata and Roefaro have said the Hage & Hage investigation would pay for itself. The city has sued GroWest, which has a $1 million insurance policy, and it has also taken over civil lawsuits initiated by GroWest against former agency employees and contractors.

“If we recover any of that money, it will more than pay for the bill,” Fatata said.

Roefaro responds

Roefaro said the Hage investigation has a purpose distinct from those by the FBI and HUD. Specifically, he has said, it protects the federal money currently coming to the city, provides an outline for the city to correct past mistakes and puts the city in HUD’s good favor by showing willingness for self-examination. The lawsuits enabled by the Hage investigation extended statutes of limitations that were about to run out, he said.

“If I didn’t do this, it would have cost the taxpayer millions of dollars,” Roefaro said.

Roefaro has bristled all along at the accusations of politics playing a role in the process, more recently saying he is taking his cues from HUD, which has stationed an auditor in the city’s Urban and Economic Development office.

Hage was first hired by the GroWest board, and the mayor said he had no role in the Hage investigation while it was going on. He said Cerminaro should “look at the hundreds of thousands his office has overpaid” instead of the bill, referring to payroll errors over the past year-and-a-half.

“We cannot reward incompetency, and I cannot push this under the rug,” he said. “Mr. Cerminaro will have to accept what is going on and that FBI and HUD are involved or he should resign.”

The bill submitted by Hage, who was hired at a rate of $150 per hour, actually indicated the work by his firm totaled $368,078. It was reduced, according to the bill, by several sizable “courtesy credits” from the firm.

Hage has said his normal hourly rate is more than $400, but that the actual hourly rate for the investigation came to $123.

Council members critical

The executive summary released is critical of both Cerminaro and former Mayor Timothy Julian, who was defeated by Roefaro in 2007. Cerminaro and Julian, both Republicans, have been mentioned as possible political candidates against the mayor in the 2011 election.

On Friday, Council President and Democrat William Morehouse said he was “boggled” by the situation and still objected to the investigation.

“I’m not saying it was, but it was potentially politically motivated,” said Morehouse, adding that he considered himself a friend of Hage and the mayor. “If it smells like and tastes like and looks like, it comes to a point that you really get concerned.”

Common Councilman Rocco Giruzzi, R-3, cited his lack of legal expertise and said he did not have an opinion on the Hage report, but did say he felt “nobody’s worth that amount of money.”

“I just hope at the end of the day there’s justice and the people that are guilty are held accountable,” he said.

Council Majority Leader Lorraine Arcuri, D-at large, questioned whether money recouped in lawsuits will make up for the city taxpayer-funded Hage investigation, or go back to the federal government.

“Not only is this a waste of money, but the use of a private local attorney for this may lead some to question the credibility of the report,” she said. “Worse yet, some may see it as a cover-up. “

What’s next?

Cerminaro said his office will begin formally auditing the bill Monday, and he plans on formally notifying the Corporation Counsel’s Office that he will not pay it during the week.

Fatata said her office will begin working on proceeding with the claims it has already filed against GroWest and the ones it has undertaken against the agency’s former employees and contractors.

She said her office will not initiate new actions any time soon, and that any additional suits will likely commence after the FBI has finished its work.

That means the city will likely not file civil suits against any of its employees. But that doesn’t mean they are completely in the clear, Fatata said.

“Anything with past officials would tend to be more criminal than civil,” she said, declining to elaborate.

Arcuri to host fourth annual Grants Training Workshop

The Oneida County Courier reported that on Monday, Oct. 4, 2010, the Office of U.S. Rep. Michael Arcuri (NY-24) will host the fourth annual 24th Congressional District Grants Training Workshop for interested businesses, organizations and individuals who want to learn more about navigating federal and state grant programs.

The Workshop will include panels of grant program administrators and applicants from various federal and state agencies and non-profit organizations, including:

U.S. Department of Agriculture;

U.S. Department of Education;

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development;

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services;

NYS Division of Housing and Community Renewal;

NYS Energy Research and Development Authority;

NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services;

NYS Environmental Facilities Corporation;

The Community Foundation of Herkimer and Oneida Counties; and,

The United Way

Registration for the Workshop is $40 per person, which includes lunch and an informational packet with details regarding many available federal and state grant programs.

Interested participants can register by contacting Arcuri’s Utica District Office at 315-793-8146 or by emailing Liz Gustafson at Registration deadline is 5:00pm on Friday, Oct. 1, 2010.

U.S. Rep. Michael Arcuri’s 4th Annual Grants Training Workshop

Date: October 4, 2010

Time: 9:00am – 4:00pm

Location: Radisson Hotel – Utica Centre, 200 Genesee Street, Utica, NY 13502

Thursday, September 23, 2010

State investigation of association of the blind remains incomplete

The OD reported that more than eight months after the state Attorney General’s Office launched an investigation into the Central Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, it still hasn’t reached a conclusion, a state spokesperson said Tuesday.

The state would not say when it expected to complete the probe into whether fraudulent practices or illegal acts might have occurred at the Utica nonprofit.

In November 2009, the state began investigating the association, seeking documents from the past five years detailing the agency's compensation to employees and contracts with vendors.

Reached Tuesday, the association’s president, Rudy D’Amico, said he hadn’t been in contact with the Attorney General’s Office since last year.

“We’ve made all of the appropriate disclosures to the Attorney General’s Office months ago,” D’Amico said. “We’re just waiting for this matter to be brought to a close.”

Paul Drejza, the nonprofit’s board chairman, would not comment on the investigation and said all communication must go through D’Amico.

In March 2009, the O-D reported the association for the blind had awarded nearly $3 million in work since the late 1990s to two private companies with ties to key figures at the agency. Nonprofit experts said such arrangements raised ethical questions.

The nonprofit awarded contracts to firms that were owned by D’Amico, and at one time by Charles A. Gaetano, a longtime agency board member and director emeritus.

D'Amico’s company, Express Systems Integration, handled information technology contracts at a time that he oversaw information technology issues at the association for the blind.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Utica council won’t seek state help with GroWest

The OD reported that a resolution asking various state agencies to launch their own investigations into GroWest Inc. was voted down by the city’s Common Council on Wednesday after it was proposed by two council members.

GroWest already was the subject of a investigation by city-hired attorney J.K. Hage III and still is being probed by the FBI and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The executive summary from Hage’s investigation, an undertaking he has said will cost the city more than $100,000, indicated possible criminal improprieties by former contractors and employees of the West Utica-based nonprofit agency and a failure by the city to set up and execute an adequate way to administer federal dollars.

Council members James Zecca, D-2, and Frank Vescera, D-1, said Wednesday that they sought state involvement after reviewing the contents of Hage’s full report, which remains under lock-and-key in the City Clerk’s office.

The report is available only to council members and a select few other officials because of its implications for city employees and pending litigation. But Zecca and Vescera said its conclusions motivated them to seek as much help as possible.

“I’ve got to be honest with you,” Zecca said. “I don’t trust anybody at this point in time. I don’t trust a soul.”
He and Vescera suggested that the state Attorney General’s Public Integrity Bureau or the state Comptroller’s Office could become involved. But their resolution was voted down 6-3, with Rocco Giruzzi, R-3, the only other council member in favor of it.

Mayor David Roefaro and Corporation Counsel Linda Sullivan Fatata echoed the sentiments of opposing council members when they said the city’s only involvement with GroWest was through federal money, and that HUD and the FBI should be allowed to proceed without the state getting involved. A HUD auditor is currently stationed in the city’s Urban and Economic Development department.

Several council members said state agencies are certainly aware of the situation anyway, given the intense publicity it has received in the media.

GroWest and the city’s Urban and Economic Development office will be subjects of discussion at a 6:30 p.m. council Economic Development Committee meeting Thursday at City Hall.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

GroWest report faults agency, city's GOP leaders

The Utica OD reported that the newly released summary of a months-long investigation into nonprofit agency GroWest Inc. paints a strikingly dysfunctional portrait of the agency and details a system of steering jobs toward certain contractors, purchasing materials seemingly unrelated to specific jobs, falsifying time sheets and even intimidating homeowners into signing forms saying work had been completed when it had not.

The report, which will cost Utica taxpayers more than $100,000, says GroWest’s financial director and deputy financial director were employees of the agency’s chosen auditor, Dermody, Burke & Brown, before they joined GroWest.

It also lays out yearly audits as a comprehensive failure that did not even note the organization was moving toward insolvency in 2005.

Officials for Dermody, Burke & Brown could not be reached for comment Wednesday evening.

Former city Mayor Timothy Julian and current city Comptroller Michael Cerminaro also are subjects of sharp criticism in local attorney J.K. Hage III’s executive summary of his probe into financial concerns involving GroWest, a housing rehabilitation agency that relied in large part on federal grants administered by City Hall.

Specifically, the report says Julian violated the city’s charter when he reorganized the city Urban and Economic Development office in 2003, creating a position that circumvented the department chief and reported directly to the mayor.

The move “encouraged, if not caused, interdepartmental rivalries, poor communication, lack of accountability ... and potentially fraudulent behavior,” Hage’s report says. And Cerminaro’s office has “failed to protect the integrity of the grant deployment process by failing to audit grant vouchers effectively before vouchers are paid,” the report concludes.

Cerminaro disputes those findings, however.

The findings are the result of roughly three months of work from Hage and Hage LLC in trying to figure out what went wrong with GroWest.

The FBI also is investigating allegations of fraud and bid-rigging concerning the agency’s work in neighborhoods including West Utica. And the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is conducting an audit of the GroWest situation.

The 21-page summary delivered Wednesday is considerably shorter than the roughly 120-page full report prepared by the law firm and given to the administration of Mayor David Roefaro on Aug. 2.

It was condensed for public dissemination partly because of sensitive legal issues in the full report, which Hage said he hopes will lead to even further legal action.

Hage points out in the report that the city’s Urban and Economic Development office is understaffed and incapable of administering the city’s federal grant funds. The department runs on roughly $4.2 million of federal Community Development Block Grant funds per year.

The report recommends sweeping changes to the department’s structure and processes in selecting and overseeing grants. Those changes, it says, could take something positive from a situation that has endangered the city’s federal funding.

“We’ve got a lot of time to make up,” Roefaro said after the report summary was made public. “We’re the ones that have to make sure this never happens again.” Read more here.

Monday, September 6, 2010

City agreement with EDGE delayed by GroWest

The OD reported that the ongoing GroWest investigation has temporarily stalled talks of merging some functions of city government and Mohawk Valley EDGE, but city officials say they haven’t forgotten about working with the economic development agency.

City Mayor David Roefaro said a formal agreement between the two sides will have to wait until officials finish working with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

HUD is scrutinizing the city’s involvement with GroWest Inc., a nonprofit housing rehabilitation organization under investigation by the city and the FBI for possible financial improprieties.

“I just have to get through the procedure with HUD right now before I progress ahead,” Roefaro said recently. “We’re still working with EDGE very closely. They’re helping us on a couple of projects right now.”

Utica officials, including former Mayor Tim Julian, have long grumbled that EDGE's resources are spent developing the Griffiss Business and Technology Park in Rome rather than growing the economy in Utica, which is Oneida County's biggest city and home to a struggling downtown and a significant low-income population.

City Community Revitalization Director Robert Sullivan has said that funding for the city’s current Urban and Economic Development Department, which comes exclusively from Community Development Block Grant Dollars, leaves the city without adequate resources for marketing and project development.

EDGE President Steven DiMeo said his agency could help manage those proposed projects and offer some of its expertise to the city.

It’s still unclear whether a formal agreement would include the city paying EDGE for that service, or if EDGE employees would be stationed in the city’s economic development office. Read more here.

October 4 at Utica Public Library: To Preserve and Protect: Security Solutions for New York’s Historical

To Preserve and Protect: Security Solutions for New York’s Historical

Theft of historical documents plagues records repositories. With
careful planning, awareness of warning signs and proactive security
solutions, organizations can reduce the window of opportunity for
historical record theft. Archival security expert Mimi Bowling will
provide an interactive curriculum during this full-day workshop on
archival security, preparing participants to take immediate action to
strengthen their local security programs. Participants will receive a
certificate upon completion. There is no cost.

Topics include:

risk awareness
insider theft
facility design and security technology
security of information systems
working with vendors and contractors
research room management and design
developing institutional security policies
procedures and post-theft response
additional topics as requested by participants.
Workshop Schedule

Rochester Region

September 13, 2010 (Monday)
Ontario County Safety Training Center
Canandaigua, Ontario, NY
Western NY Region
September 14, 2010 (Tuesday)
Erie 1 BOCES
West Seneca, Erie, NY

Central NY Region

October 4, 2010 (Monday)
Utica Public Library
Utica, Oneida, NY

South Central NY Region

October 5, 2010 (Tuesday)
Roberson Museum and Science Center
Binghamton, Broome, NY

Hudson Valley Region

March 7, 2011 (Monday)
Historic Huguenot Street
New Paltz, Ulster, NY

Capital Region

April 11, 2011 (Monday)
Crandall Public Library
Glens Falls, Warren, NY

Northern NY Region

April 18, 2011 (Monday)
Town of Massena
Massena, St. Lawrence, NY

Metro NYC Region and Long Island Region

Spring 2011

To register, please email or call
518-473-0130. Early registration is encouraged and appreciated; only
25 seats available.

This program is sponsored by the New York State Historical Records
Advisory Board, the New York State Archives, and the National
Historical Publications and Records Commission.

Nonprofits leaning on individuals and corporations in tough times

The Utica OD offered an article on a new study released by the Corporation for National and Community Services reported that the number of volunteers in America rose 1.6 million in the past year. The dramatic increase ultimately demonstrates that people are contributing to their communities at an increasing rate, even during financially challenging times.

Nonprofit organizations of all scales - small or large, local or international - rely on the generosity of others to support research and programming, increase awareness and ultimately help those in need. While individuals often lend a hand through social or religious groups, corporations are also playing a large role in giving back to an array of causes.

According to a new report released by the Giving USA Foundation and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, though 2009 was financially challenging for many nonprofits due in part to a 3.6 percent decrease in overall contributions, corporate donations increased more than 5 percent from 2008.

In 2009, Delta Faucet Company, an Indianapolis-based faucet manufacturer, contributed to the corporate total with donations from its flagship Delta Faucet brand to programs benefiting local health services and rebuilding organizations in areas affected by Hurricane Katrina.

This year, Brizo, a high-fashion faucet brand and part of the Delta Faucet Company, pledged to dramatically increase its philanthropic efforts through a first-ever national sponsorship of the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital Dream Home Giveaway program. As part of its sponsorship, the brand is providing Dream Home builders, designers and contractors with hands-on support and more than $430,000 in products.

"Having Brizo's support helps St. Jude in a multitude of ways," said Alan Johnson, St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway program director. "Their contribution at a national level allows us to free up valuable resources at the market level and lend additional effort to promoting the campaigns and cultivating other opportunities. We are also able to capitalize on the relationships that Brizo has with top builders and designers across the country, allowing us to expand our reach and provide more assistance to the hospital and the children it treats."

The St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway was created in 1991 and has since become one of the largest single-event fundraisers for St. Jude nationwide, raising more than $175 million for research and patient treatment.

"It is inspiring in this economy to encounter a company willing to devote such significant resources and attention to a cause that falls outside of day-to-day business concerns, such as fighting childhood cancer," added Johnson.

While financial support is integral to the livelihood of nonprofits and fundamental to enabling the organizations to improve the lives of those experiencing hardship, corporate sponsors are also becoming increasingly engaged and involved in hands-on activities and programming.

"We see our relationship with St. Jude as a partnership. Certainly our support benefits its fundraising needs, but participating on a more literal level is equally rewarding to our team," said Brian Nobbe, director of Brizo brand marketing. "This type of hands-on engagement helps to strengthen the emotional connection for us."

Habitat for Humanity is another organization that has benefited from large corporate support. Over a number of years, Bank of America has donated $20 million, as well as 150,000 volunteer associate hours, to Habitat for Humanity to support its efforts to build homes for those in need. The donations from Bank of America have helped the organization build more than 160 houses in the United States, as well as 100 houses in Mexico.

Whether donations and volunteer support is needed for research, rehabilitation or development, the continuation of support is important to the livelihood of any non-profit. To search for charities and locate an organization in your area, go to