Judge orders Mondesire to share financial documents

Posted: June 12, 2014

A Common Pleas Court judge Tuesday ruled that former Philadelphia NAACP president Jerome Whyatt Mondesire must turn over financial records from a community development corporation that he controls to three members of its executive board.

After listening to about an hour of arguments from lawyers, Judge Gary Glazer ruled that Mondesire, who was not present, must provide records of Next Generation CDC dating from 2005 to Donald "Ducky" Birts, Sid Booker, and the Rev. Elisha Morris.

The three are still listed as members of Next Generation's executive board despite their falling-out with Mondesire.

The three men also were board members of the NAACP's Philadelphia chapter until they, along with Mondesire, were suspended by the national NAACP this spring amid a dispute over Next Generation's financial records.

"I think it is appropriate, under these circumstances, for the board members to have access to the records," Glazer said.

The matter came to light last fall after Booker, a restaurateur and nightclub owner, began asking Mondesire about a $500 check he wrote for the Philadelphia NAACP's annual gala.

When Booker contacted his bank, he was sent a copy of a deposit slip indicating that the $500 check and another for $10,000 from Market East Associates L.P. had been deposited into a Next Generation account.

"Initially, we're just going to look at money in and money out," said Gerard Egan, a lawyer for the board members. "My clients all have an obligation . . . to the commonwealth and the citizens as board members of a nonprofit."

Several phone calls to Mondesire on Tuesday were not returned.

Isaac Green, another lawyer for the board members, said when they get the financial records, "we will be in a much better position to make a determination as to what the next course of action should be."

At the hearing, Morris testified that no Next Generation CDC board meetings were ever held.

"We got our information from Jerry [Mondesire] informally," Morris said, adding: "We were friends. We were helping people."

Morris said he asked Mondesire about the records "periodically and got nothing."

Mondesire's attorney, Ryan Paddick, questioned whether Morris, Birts, and Booker had a right to Next Generation's records.

"The issue is: Are they board members?" Paddick said. "Do these petitioners have standing?"

In a related matter, state records show that Next Generation received a state grant in 2006 for $100,000 to renovate a football field in Hunting Park used by the North Philadelphia Aztecs, who won the national Pop Warner Super Bowl in 2004. A city official said no work was done on the site under that grant.

The field, at 901 E. Hunting Park Ave., was rutted, had major problems with drainage, and was in such a state of disrepair that it was used only for practice. The Aztecs played their games at Edison High School and other venues.

The grant, from the State Department of Community and Economic Development, called for new lighting, a drainage system, seating, and equipment storage buildings. The work was supposed to take two years to complete.

Mark Focht, first deputy commissioner for Parks and Recreation, on Tuesday said: "We at Parks and Recreation were not familiar with that application to the DCED. . . . We weren't aware of the grant, and nothing was done."

Jeremiah Berry, vice president of the North Philadelphia Aztecs, said in an interview Tuesday that he was unaware of any work on the field by Next Generation or Mondesire.

The website AxisPhilly first reported on the grant for the football field Saturday.

In a memo sent Tuesday to AxisPhilly, Mondesire addressed the grant for the football field.

"The issue raised about an athletic field that was supported by a state grant is also a specious issue since the elected official who secured the funding for this project allowed Next Generation to use those funds to support our antiviolence and scholarship programs with money that had originally been set aside for brick and mortar projects," Mondesire wrote.

"The change was made in accordance with the intense need for more antiviolence work at the time when the homicide rate was sky high," Mondesire wrote.

The reference to an elected official was apparently about former State Sen. Vincent J. Fumo. A letter to Fumo from Mondesire, dated March 2, 2006, thanked Fumo for his "generous support of our current application."

Mondesire's memo, which was faxed to The Inquirer, took aim at AxisPhilly, which has reported extensively on Next Generation's finances.

"Since for the past decade all of Philadelphia has benefitted from the contributions of Next Generation CDC it's time for the public to ask what are the real motives of our enemies and their handmaidens in the blogosphere. Haven't we put up with ENOUGH ALREADY?"

Records show the IRS revoked Next Generation's tax-exempt status in 2011.

The field eventually received a $1.4 million overhaul in April 2013, which included an artificial-turf field with a sophisticated drainage system and an electronic scoreboard.

That project was funded by the state, the city, the Fairmount Park Conservancy, the Eagles, quarterback Michael Vick's Team Vick Foundation, and others.


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