- Main News
Agency executive arrested following scandal
By Nathan James
The Bronx Community Pride Center, long a haven for the borough’s LGBT population in a rampantly homophobic county, has permanently closed its doors following the arrest of its former executive director for embezzlement. The Longview group fell into debt and disrepair after Lisa Winters, 42, was charged with allegedly stealing $338,000 from the organization, during her six-year tenure as its chief. She was fired in 2010 after the scam came to light, and is now awaiting trial.
Meanwhile, clients of the non-profit have lost their “sanctuary”, as Charly Dominguez, Bronx Pride’s youth coordinator, laments. ”Growing up in the Bronx, the levels of homophobia are outrageous,” says Dominguez, who fears LGBT youth served by the center will now “slip through the cracks.” Following the arrest of Ms. Williams, the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which offers funding for service groups like Bronx Pride, withdrew its six-figure annual grant to the agency, sending it into a financial tailspin.
Faced with growing insolvency amid a hostile community environment–State Senator Riben Diaz, Sr. has led many public demonstrations against LGBT rights, and his son is the Borough President–the prospects for Bronx Pride were grim. Still, the group leaves behind a 12-year record of service, offering everything from HIV testing and youth services to senior-citizens programs.
The Kelly Street facility attempted a fundraising campaign last fall, but fell far short of reaching its goal.
Bronx Pride is the second LGBT service organization in the city to shut down in the past four years. In 2008, Brooklyn-based People Of Color in Crisis (POCC) closed when an investigation allegedly revealed massive financial fraud by its executive director, Michael Roberson. Roberson was said to have used most of POCC’s funds and credit for personal travel and gifts to boyfriends and other individuals. He has not yet been charged in connection with the POCC case.
Following the closure of Bronx Pride, other LGBT organizations said they will provide the services of the defunct group, but all of these are outside the borough. ”This was home,” Dominguez noted.