The Notre Dame student government held its inaugural ‘Go Irish, Go Local’ networking event in the Duncan Student Center on Monday in a push to encourage more Notre Dame students to stay in South Bend for summer internships and after graduation. The event consisted of remarks by representatives in the area, followed by a networking reception that allowed students to talk to a variety of businesses to learn more about summer internships in the South Bend region.Attendees seeking summer interns included the Career Analysis Organization of America, enFocus, Umbaugh and Notre Dame’s own IDEA Center.The organizer of the event, sophomore Fabiola Shipley, said she hopes to drive more attention to South Bend, which she said is “a small city on its way back up.”“People have been leaving Indiana, particularly South Bend,” she said.enFocus representative Patrick Jones said analysts have observed “negative net migration” into Indiana, and in 2011 South Bend made national news as one of the top ten dying cities throughout the United States, but is now having a renaissance of jobs and opportunity.Jones said South Bend has had a successful manufacturing history.“South Bend, over time, has tried to figure out how to reestablish itself as an economic center,” Jones said. He said the emergence of fiber optic technology in the region has driven a huge amount of jobs and opportunity.The goal of the event, Shipley said, was to help reverse the negative net migration into South Bend with the talent fostered at Notre Dame. “Notre Dame students should be more involved and see the opportunities here,” she said. “South Bend economically is really on the rise. … Trends are in an upwards direction.” Kathy Kruz, the recruiting manager for Mishawaka-based financial advisory company Umbaugh, said South Bend has great potential for continued growth.“The mayor is doing great things and showing great promise,” Kruz said.Program manager at the IDEA Center, Charles Powell, said the IDEA Center contributes to the community.“We are pulling up our bootstraps,” he said. “The IDEA center is on fire. We are doing things this community never thought possible. We are doing things this University never thought possible.” Powell said student startups have taken an upturn since the IDEA center started in July 2017. “In years past Notre Dame was able to put forth three startups,” he said. “This year alone we have already produced ten student startups, and we are soon to produce sixteen startups by the end of this month … and we hope to almost double that by the end of this year.”In closing, Powell directly addressed the audience. He said as South Bend continues to grow and create more economic opportunity, it is clear that both Notre Dame and businesses throughout South Bend want to tap into this potential too.“You represent an amazing group of people. We just haven’t tapped into you yet,” he said.Tags: enFocus, go irish go local, IDEA Center, networking, Student government, umbaugh
Drawn to the University by its community life and spirituality, five new rectors will join Notre Dame this year: Brogan Ryan of Keough Hall, Liz Palmer of Ryan Hall, Angie Hollar of Breen-Phillips Hall, Emily Orsini of Pasquerilla West Hall and Jo Cecilio of Cavanaugh Hall.Ryan, who will profess final vows with the Congregation of the Holy Cross and become a deacon later in August, said he was drawn to becoming a rector because of his experiences in the residence hall as an undergraduate.“When I was at Notre Dame, the residence halls were a pretty central part of my experience,” he said.As an AR in Keough last year, Ryan said he enjoyed getting to know the Keough community.“For me, community in the residence halls is really about the people that live in them and not the buildings or even the traditions” he said. “ … It’s really about the guys.”Palmer, who graduated from Saint Mary’s in 2013, has most recently served as the hall director of Holy Cross and Opus Halls at the College. Palmer said she was drawn to the mission and spirituality of the University.“It has guided my own faith and spiritual life,” she said. “I’ve specifically gotten to encounter the Sisters of the Holy Cross often and to understand my own and life and understand what mission I want to serve. I want to understand more fully the whole story, so coming here, I’m excited to get to know more about the priests and the vision they live.”Palmer is also excited Ryan Hall lives up to ADA standards and that “students who don’t have disabilities can become aware of [students’ disabilities] by living in [Ryan].”A graduate of Saint Mary’s with a background in teaching, Hollar said she was interested in talking to students about how they make decisions and what goes on in their lives.“I noticed when I was teaching that I was much more interested in being with the students on their paths to personal development than really what my curriculum allowed for,” she said.Hollar, a native of Mishawaka, said she was also interested in returning to the South Bend area after spending time away.Orsini comes to Notre Dame after getting her graduate degree from the University of Toledo. While at Toledo, Orsini worked with the Office of Student Advocacy and Support and the Office of New Student Orientation. Given her previous experience working with students, Orsini said she is excited to explore the communities Notre Dame has to offer.“I’m looking most forward to working with the students, just getting to know them and the culture of [Pasquerilla West] … and just becoming part of the [Pasquerilla West] community and the University of Notre Dame community,” she said.Cecilio is joining Cavanaugh after serving as the retreat director and Holy Cross educator at Notre Dame High School in California. She said in an email that the sleep schedule is the part of being rector that she is most nervous for, but she is excited to work with the residents of Cavanaugh.“I decided to make the move from [Los Angeles] because I really feel God is calling me to share life with the women of Cavanaugh,” she said. “ … I cannot wait to share life with these women.”Tags: Breen-Phillips Hall, Cavanaugh Hall, dorm life, dorms, Keough Hall, new rectors, Pasquerilla West, rector, Ryan Hall
Vice president of student affairs Karen Johnson began her work at Saint Mary’s in 2006, after spending 20 years as the dean of students at a Catholic university in Texas. Although she was initially hesitant to apply, Johnson said her interview made the decision to work at Saint Mary’s clear. “When I came for the interview, it was sort of like what students say — they came on campus and they just knew this is the place they needed to be — and for me, I just knew this was the place I needed to be,” Johnson said.After 12 years of service at Saint Mary’s, Johnson is retiring effective Saturday.Johnson said the opportunity to work at an all-women’s college was a big draw for her initially.“The thing is I was most struck when I first came here and heard the student body president speak at orientation, and how confident she was and how well-prepared she was,” Johnson said. “And I said, ‘Wow, these are women that are going to do something.’”Prior to coming to Saint Mary’s, Johnson said she had only worked at co-ed institutions. Due to this experience, she found there to be a difference in the attitude students had toward one another. “Women tend to take care of each other and reach out to each other,” Johnson said. “I mean there’s always bullying and little stuff going on — little, teeny stuff — but in the end, they tend to take care of each other and they tend to want everybody around them to be successful, and they pull people along with them to be successful.”Working with all women lends to having to pay more attention to women’s issues. Johnson said one of her highlights of working at Saint Mary’s was the work she did with sexual assault — and specifically, securing a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to open the Belle’s Against Violence Office in 2009. “Working on all the Title IX and sexual violence things were really important for Saint Mary’s at the time that it happened and I felt really good about that,” Johnson said.Another project Johnson said she is proud of is the completion of the Angela Athletic and Wellness Facility, which required large amounts of additional fundraising to come to completion. “When we started out we talked about $14 million, and when we got it done it was $26 million,” Johnson said. “And you know, the College was able to raise the funds for that, but being able to put everything in there that we wanted to put in there.”Johnson started the College parent Facebook pages during her tenure at Saint Mary’s, and has enjoyed the opportunity to be up-to-date on the concerns of parents and their daughters, she said. “It really keeps me on top of what the parents are thinking about,” Johnson said. “I can be one step ahead of them, and they also tell me how their daughters are feeling and what’s going on.”Although she has made a lot of improvements, Johnson said there have also been some challenges along the way, mental health being one of them. “The mental health issues that we deal with on campus have become more of a challenge over the years as I’ve been working in this field,” Johnson said. “Students come to us with more issues, but they’re also more used to getting help, which is a good thing.”President Jan Cervelli said in an email that Johnson has been an asset to the College community, and especially to students. “Karen provided Saint Mary’s with exemplary service in her role as vice president for student affairs,” Cervelli said. “She continually improved processes and policies, helped to increase support for students and worked to develop a wide range of programs and activities to boost student well-being and overall satisfaction. Her contributions have made tremendous positive impact on Saint Mary’s students’ quality of life, and we owe her a debt of gratitude as well as congratulations on her successful tenure with the College.”Johnson also spoke of the progression during her time at Saint Mary’s. “We’re much more progressive in how we help young women prepare for the world beyond helping them prepare for the workplace. … We’re just a better college overall over the last 12 years,” Johnson said. “It’s been constant growth and development as opposed to just sitting still in one place.”This “constant growth” is necessary to the College community as the world continues to change, Johnson said. “We have to change,” Johnson said. “We have to keep moving forward and we have to keep evolving as time changes.”“Given what’s happening in the world today and the climate about women today, we have to be in the forefront of saying what’s right for women and how we are helping women grow and develop,” Johnson said. “Because, you know, even today I listened to some things in Congress that were being said and I’m thinking, ‘No, it’s time for women to run the world. And if any women are going to run the world, it needs to be the women from Saint Mary’s.’”After her retirement, Johnson said she plans to take time to explore different activities. She also plans to attend the class of 2019’s Commencement. “I’ll be around for a while and I promised some seniors I’d come back to commencement, and I am just going to do some things that are fun that I want to do. … I’m just going to take some time and see what happens,” Johnson said.Johnson said she looks forward to seeing the impact Saint Mary’s women have on the world. “I love the students at Saint Mary’s, and they’re great young women,” Johnson said. “I’m going to miss everybody here, especially the students. But I know they’ll be in good hands and be well taken care of. But, I expect big things from the women here. I want to read about [them] all.” As for students, Johnson said she hopes the memory left behind is of her desire to help the community. “I hope that people remember when I helped them, as opposed to maybe when they got in trouble or something,” Johnson said. “But I hope people know I’m here to help them, and that’s what I did.”While Johnson said she did not initially plan to spend 12 years at Saint Mary’s, she thoroughly enjoyed her time here. “When I look back now, I can’t imagine what else I would have done with my life,” Johnson said. “And, I have absolutely no regrets about being in student affairs and working with students every day. It’s been the best part of my life.”Tags: Angela Athletic and Wellness Facility, BAVO, Karen Johnson, retirement, vice president of student affairs
Many Notre Dame students choose to leave campus to study abroad at some point during their academic journey, typically in the fall and spring semesters or the summer months. However, Notre Dame also offers the opportunity to study and pursue an internship in Washington, D.C. during the fall or spring semesters through the University’s partnership with the University of California Washington Center (UCDC) consortium. The ND Washington Program accepts 16 students each semester and is open to students of all majors.Claudia Francis, the program’s assistant director, said the program is not only for students who are interested in all things politics.“It’s also great for students that might just have a passion or a cause that they want to act on and have some time doing that while building their resume,” Francis said. Junior Stephen Vukovits was in Washington, D.C. last spring, and said he chose the Washington Program because he wanted practical experience working in D.C. on policy issues. “I particularly chose to do it sophomore year because I wanted to get the experience early on, so I could learn what kind of policy work I am interested in … which then allowed me to return in the summer with more knowledge and a more particular career path I would enjoy,” Vukovits said. Also in Washington, D.C. last spring was senior Kendrick Peterson, who said he wanted an experience that gave him skills he could use to enhance the activities he was already doing on campus.“I decided when I was thinking about studying abroad or going somewhere that I would pick somewhere that gave me some type of foundational value,” Peterson said. Francis said all students participate in a three-credit internship while taking classes at UCDC, but there is one seminar class and a companion course to it solely for Notre Dame students studying in D.C. “All Notre Dame students take a course [on] foundations of public policy. It actually counts as a second philosophy course,” Francis said. “The companion class to that is another three credit called Public Policy Visits.” In the companion class, students visit a different organization throughout D.C. each week, often through an alum connection of the University, Francis said. The internship, public policy seminar and companion course serve as the three core components of the program. Students then choose two elective courses to take through the UCDC consortium with students from many different universities.The internship is customizable for students. In the past, students have interned with politicians, media organizations, business hubs, museums and more, Francis said.Francis said Washington, D.C. is often attractive to applicants interested in advocating for something they are passionate about. “Students can intern with a member of Congress, they can intern at an advocacy organization, an NGO. … They could work at a think tank, doing some research on areas that are [of] particular interest to them, either academically or personally,” Francis said.Vukovits interned with the government relations at lobbying and law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck. “The experience taught me about the intersection of business, politics and policy, and how all of the different interest groups work together to enact policy change,” Vukovits said. “It really exposed me to different avenues in how congressional committees work, how cooperation and bipartisanship can happen behind the scenes to sort of make the deals needed to pass laws.”Peterson went a different route with the internship opportunity in Washington, D.C. “I worked at the Human Rights Campaign as a political organizer against hate legislation in Arkansas, Alabama and Mississippi,” Peterson said. Both Peterson and Vukovits said they enjoyed studying and living in community with students from other universities. Vukovits said hearing what people liked and didn’t like about their work provided insight into what kinds of jobs he might enjoy in the future. “I really enjoyed learning from the other students in the program because everyone had such different internships that the whole program really exposed me to the different careers,” Vikovits said. “Having everyone share that feedback within class as well in our class discussions just made the discussion even richer.”Peterson said he enjoyed connecting with students different than him. “Meeting people that were so radically different than me was amazing, and I found some of my greatest friends. We still have a texting group chat at this moment,” Peterson said. The student application deadline for fall 2020 and spring 2021 of the Washington Program is December 1.Tags: nd washington program, study abroad
Annie Smierciak Students meet with employers at the 2019 Fall Career Fair. The annual fair, hosted by the Meruelo Center for Career Development, will be offered in a virtual format this year to protect students and employers.Anna Bowman, a junior currently spending the semester at home, said she is excited to be able to participate in the career fair despite not residing on campus.“I’m happy that I still have the chance to attend the career fair and network this year, but I’m a bit nervous about how the sessions will actually go,” Bowman said in a text message.A finance and anthropology double-major, Bowman said she registered for several one-on-one slots with various financial companies to look into internships.Senior business analytics major Natalia Gomez-Botero said her primary reason for attending the career fair is to seek full-time employment following graduation. She said she sees benefits and drawbacks to the online fair.“I think it’s unfortunate that you don’t get to be face to face with someone to make a good impression, but I think the format of signing up for slots to specifically talk to someone can assure that you have that time, and I think that’s nice,” Gomez-Botero said.Normally held on a singular day, the Fall Career Fair will be offered as a week-long event running Sept. 11 to 17. Willerton said that as of Sept. 9, 250 employers had registered to be a part of the week compared to a total of 208 employers present at last year’s fair.“Given that 2020 is a very different economic situation, we are excited to welcome a number of new employers to recruit our students,” Willerton said. “To us, these registration numbers further validates what we already know — employers truly see the talent and value Notre Dame students can offer their organizations.”Students could sign up for group sessions or one-on-one conversations with employers based on their individual preferences or needs. Graduate students and seniors were permitted to sign up first. Even though space for some employers filled up quickly, Willerton said students are encouraged to check space every day for a certain employer.The fair will also include a diversity and inclusion event to allow students to meet with employers committed to these values. Willerton said the event reached its capacity of 100 employers.“Our staff has heard that diversity is a priority for employers, and this was certainly the case,” Willerton said. “Acknowledging that diversity extends beyond gender, race and ethnicity, all undergraduate and graduate students are welcome to participate in this new event.”Willerton said contrary to popular belief, less than 25% of full-time employment is secured through career fairs. He said career fairs serve other purposes such as helping students learn about internships and a variety of career paths.Many students attend the career fair to experience the hiring process and gain interview experience through a casual setting. Yet, this year feels more intimidating to some, including sophomore Maggie Lenhart, who said she was on the fence but wants to gain experience.“I want to see how upperclassmen who are really focused on getting their first jobs are interacting with the employers because I’m learning what skills employers are looking for,” Lenhart said.Tags: Fall Career Fair, handshake, job recruitment, Meruelo Family Center for Career Development This week, the Meruelo Family Center for Career Development will host its annual Fall Career Fair through virtual platforms as part of a larger Career Fair Week.The fair will take on the new format this year due to safety concerns and companies’ restrictions on traveling, associate vice president for career and professional development Ryan Willerton said in an email. Events will primarily be held over Handshake with some over Zoom.Willerton said the center recognized back in March that restrictions might lead to the fair being pushed online and made the decision after consulting with recruiting partners and other college career centers.“Traditional recruiting often requires employers to travel, and many companies have implemented travel restrictions,” Willerton said.
Elizabeth Prater | The Observer Notre Dame students Conal Fagan and Rachel Sabnani registering voters at a Notre Dame athletics and ND Votes event.Sabnani cited the large percent of unregistered athletes as part of the organization’s collaboration with Notre Dame’s athletic department.“We had found that a lot of the athletes weren’t registered at all, probably a larger percentage than the normal [Notre Dame] student body, just because they’re so busy,” she said.While the main focus of the initiative is to get the athletic departments to register to vote, civic responsibility doesn’t end with the athletes. Many other organizations have been getting involved during Civic Engagement Week in order to drive more conversations about civic responsibility and duty.On Monday, the Notre Dame College Democrats and College Republicans engaged in a debate over student-submission questions about current issues, candidates, and the election as a whole.Zach Holland, a co-president for Notre Dame College Democrats, said he was really excited about the events that his organization participated in this week as it has boosted the energy of the club. But he also stated that civic responsibility was even more than casting a ballot or taking part in debates.“We’ve all been given the privilege to make an impact, however small that impact would be. I would urge people to take that impact and their voice heard, even if it seems small,” he said. “Civic engagement is about coming together as a community to fight for the people that need your help. It’s important that you stand up to help other people.”The president of the Notre Dame College Republicans, Adam Morys, said that he believed another aspect of civic duty and responsibility is keeping yourself informed.“Familiarize yourself with what’s going on,” he said. “That way you’ll know how your vote is going to impact the country.”Beyond campus organizations, dorm liaisons have even taken to conducting voter registrations within the dorm hall. Libby Messman, a sophomore living in Pasquerilla West Hall, said she has helped incentivize voting by spearheading a section competition within the dorm.“Especially in college, it’s really hard to vote absentee and that shouldn’t be the case, so I wanted to make sure that people who want to vote know how to do it and are able to get their absentee ballot,” Messman said.The collaborative efforts of Notre Dame athletics, ND Votes, political organizations across campus and dorms have provided Notre Dame students with many resources to make an informed decision this election season.Rachel Sabnani got involved with ND Votes due to the number of these resources available during Welcome Weekend and it has stuck with her ever since.“Notre Dame has taught me that being involved in your community is an important part of our civic duty,” Sabnani said.Editor’s note: A pervious version of this article incorrectly stated that the women’s basketball team partnered with Howard University, when it was the men’s basketball team that partnered with Howard University. The Observer regrets this error.Tags: 2020 presidential election, Center for Social Concerns, ND Votes, Notre Dame Athletics, Notre Dame College Democrats, Notre Dame College Republicans, voting initiative Notre Dame athletics is collaborating with ND Votes and other organizations to register 100% of Notre Dame athletes to vote in the upcoming presidential election.ND Votes is a nonpartisan campaign — part of the Center for Social Concerns and sponsored by the Rooney Center for the Study of American Democracy and the Constitutional Studies minor.Under the direction of co-chairs Rachel Sabnani and Michael Marotta, ND Votes teamed up with Notre Dame athletics to participate in a voting initiative to raise civic engagement amongst Notre Dame athletes.Sabnani explained the unique purpose of the organization.“We’re not like a typical student club,” Sabnani said. “We run as a task force that’s made up of representatives from every dorm and a lot of political issue-focused clubs on campus.”Before ND Votes got involved, the athletic department’s voting initiative was catalyzed by the men’s basketball team in partnership with Howard, the historically Black university that Notre Dame will play in January.“Both teams came together and they’re having a voter registration competition through When We All Vote, the nonprofit website they’ve been using,” Rachel Sabnani said. “Then, Coach McGraw reached out to us and we were registering teams.”ND Votes has also been collaborating with Student Welfare and Development to organize Zoom meetings to get all the teams on campus registered.“There are 11 teams registered to vote and 446 student athletes currently,” Sabnani said.BridgeND co-president Gregory Miller said he admires the efforts of Notre Dame athletics and ND Votes in creating the voting initiative. However, he said that he believes there are further challenges.“It’s one thing to get people to register to vote, now the challenge is getting people to vote,” he said. “And then the further challenge is getting people to vote with an informed vote.”Miller also believes Notre Dame needs to encourage their students, especially athletes to vote.“There’s always going to still be challenges, but this is the first step in increasing the political culture on the Notre Dame campus, and particularly among athletes who might otherwise not register to vote because they’re a population that tends not to,” he said.
Positive COVID-19 rates increase, University administration urges students to report for surveillance testing
In light of positive COVID-19 rates increasing both at Notre Dame and in St. Joseph County, vice president of student affairs Erin Hoffmann Harding urged students to comply with surveillance testing in an email Thursday.The seven-day moving average of positive cases is 15.7 as of today, and the estimated number of active cases is 133. Notre Dame reported 15 additional cases today.Students who do not report for surveillance testing next week cannot attend the Nov. 7 football game against Clemson.“Next Friday, Nov. 6, the COVID-19 Response Unit will notify the Murnane Family Ticket Office of those students who did not report when called, and their tickets will be deactivated,” she said.Before the end of the semester, students will also be scheduled for exit testing in order to protect family, friends and home communities where students will spend the winter session.Hoffmann Harding said students are only exempt from testing if they tested positive for COVID-19 within the last three months, are currently in quarantine or are a student-athlete.“Surveillance testing is simple and only takes a few minutes, and is a critical way for us to keep our campus healthy,” Hoffmann Harding said. “Please know of our continued prayers for our campus community and your well-being and safety in these last few weeks of the semester.”Tags: COVID-19, Erin Hoffmann Harding, surveillance testing
Stock Image.NEW YORK – The New York Attorney General is suing to dissolve the National Rifle Association (NRA), the largest and most influential pro-gun organization in the nation. Attorney General Letitia James announced Thursday that she is charging the organization with illegal conduct because of their diversion of millions of dollars away from the charitable mission of the organization for personal use by senior leadership, awarding contracts to the financial gain of close associates and family, and appearing to dole out lucrative no-show contracts to former employees in order to buy their silence and continued loyalty.The suit specifically charges the NRA as a whole, as well as Executive Vice-President Wayne LaPierre, former Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Wilson “Woody” Phillips, former Chief of Staff and the Executive Director of General Operations Joshua Powell, and Corporate Secretary and General Counsel John Frazer with failing to manage the NRA’s funds and failing to follow numerous state and federal laws, contributing to the loss of more than $64 million in just three years for the NRA.In the complaint, Attorney General James lays out dozens of examples where the four individual defendants failed to fulfill their fiduciary duty to the NRA and used millions upon millions from NRA reserves for personal use, including trips for them and their families to the Bahamas, private jets, expensive meals, and other private travel. In addition to shuttering the NRA’s doors, Attorney General James seeks to recoup millions in lost assets and to stop the four individual defendants from serving on the board of any not-for-profit charitable organization in the state of New York again. “The NRA’s influence has been so powerful that the organization went unchecked for decades while top executives funneled millions into their own pockets,” said Attorney General James. “The NRA is fraught with fraud and abuse, which is why, today, we seek to dissolve the NRA, because no organization is above the law.”Since 1871, the NRA has operated as a New York-registered 501(c)(4) not-for-profit, charitable corporation. Under state law not-for-profit, charitable corporations are required to register and file annual financial reports with the Charities Bureau in the Office of the Attorney General (OAG). The assets are required to be used in a way that serves the interests of NRA membership and that advance the organization’s charitable mission. However, as today’s complaint lays out, the NRA is alleged to have fostered a culture of noncompliance and disregard for internal controls that led to the waste and loss of millions in assets and contributed to the NRA reaching its current deteriorated financial state. The NRA’s internal policies were repeatedly not followed and were even blatantly ignored by senior leaders. Furthermore, the NRA board’s audit committee was negligent in its duty to ensure appropriate, competent, and judicious stewardship of assets by NRA leadership. Specifically, the committee failed to assure standard fiscal controls, failed to respond adequately to whistleblowers, affirmatively took steps to conceal the nature and scope of whistleblower concerns from external auditors, and failed to review potential conflicts of interest for employees.NRA’s Culture of Self-Dealing, Mismanagement, and NegligenceThe lawsuit alleges that the four men instituted a culture of self-dealing, mismanagement, and negligent oversight at the NRA that was illegal, oppressive, and fraudulent. They overrode and evaded internal controls to allow themselves, their families, favored board members, employees, and vendors to benefit through reimbursed expenses, related party transactions, excess compensation, side deals, and waste of charitable assets without regard to the NRA’s best interests.When board members challenged LaPierre and others over their financial governance and leadership of the NRA, LaPierre retaliated and turned the board against those who attempted to challenge the illegal behavior.The complaint lays out numerous other instances in which LaPierre, Phillips, Powell, Frazer, and other executives and board members at the NRA abused their power and illegally diverted or facilitated the diversion of tens of millions of dollars from the NRA. These funds were in addition to millions of dollars the four individual defendants were already receiving in grossly excessive salaries and bonuses that were not in line with the best practices and prudent standards for evaluating and determining compensation.Wayne LaPierre – Executive Vice-PresidentIn his nearly three decades as executive vice-president, Wayne LaPierre ran the day-to-day operations of the NRA and exploited the organization for his and his family’s financial benefit, and the benefit of a close circle of NRA staff, board members, and vendors. Of note, LaPierre:Spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of the NRA’s charitable assets for private plane trips for himself and his family, including extended family when he was not present.Visited the Bahamas by private air charter at least eight times in an approximate three-year period with his family, at a cost of more than $500,000 to the NRA. On many of those trips, LaPierre and his family were gifted the use of a 107-foot yacht owned by an NRA vendor.Traveled to Africa with his wife for all-expense paid safaris, gifted by an NRA vendor.Spent millions on unwarranted travel consultants for decades, including for the booking of luxury black car services — spending more than $3.6 million in the last two years alone.Secured a post-employment contract for himself with the NRA, without board approval, currently valued at more than $17 million.Allotted several millions of dollars annually in NRA funds for private security costs for himself and his family without sufficient oversight on their use.Received more than $1.2 million in expense reimbursements in just a four-year period for expenditures that included gifts for favored friends and vendors; travel expenses for himself and his family; and membership fees at golf clubs, hotels, and other member clubs.Secured lucrative consulting contracts for ex-employees and board members worth millions.The complaint alleges that as executive vice-president, LaPierre handpicked individuals in senior staff positions at the NRA that have shown themselves to be loyal to LaPierre as an individual, rather than to the organization. Time and time again, LaPierre has shown that loyalty, more than competence and responsibility, is integral to his staffing picks, which led him to personally hire Phillips, Powell, and Frazer — some chosen despite failing to meet the necessary skills or experience for their respective roles and responsibilities.Wilson “Woody” Phillips – Former Treasurer and Chief Financial OfficerWoody Phillips — the former treasurer and CFO, who was responsible for managing the books and financial operations of the NRA — engaged in practices that violated NRA policy, lied on financial disclosure forms, and set up a deal worth more than $1 million that benefitted his girlfriend. Just before his retirement in 2018, Phillips obtained a contract for himself worth $1.8 million, purportedly for monthly consulting services to the incoming treasurer, even though the current treasurer knew nothing about this contract and has confirmed that “Woody [Phillips] never consulted for me.” Phillips, having served in the capacity as the chief steward of the organization’s finances, also oversaw the financial practices that allowed millions of dollars in entertainment and travel expenses incurred by NRA executives to be fraudulently billed to the NRA as disbursements by the NRA’s largest vendor: Ackerman McQueen, an Oklahoma-based advertising and public relations firm. Furthermore, the complaint asserts that Phillips consistently eschewed his fiduciary duties time and time again, as evidenced by his failure to seriously respond to whistleblower complaints about alleged fiscal improprieties and his readiness to unilaterally authorize payments and contracts outside of the NRA adopted purchasing and contracting policies and procedures.Joshua Powell – Former Chief of Staff and Executive Director of General OperationsJoshua Powell, the chief of staff to LaPierre, was terminated after just 3.5 years for, among other things, misappropriating NRA funds during his tenure. Powell, who is known as a LaPierre loyalist, received sudden and substantial salary increases almost immediately after starting his position. Within a month, his salary was doubled retroactively to the beginning of his tenure with the NRA to $500,000. After less than a year, Powell’s salary increased to $650,000. A little over two years into the job, Powell’s salary more than tripled from the original $250,000 to $800,000, despite numerous complaints of abusive behavior and evidence of illegal conduct and inappropriate spending. Further, Powell abused the NRA’s policy on housing and relocation reimbursements, pocketing in excess of $100,000 more than NRA rules allowed.Powell’s tenure was marked by nepotism. LaPierre, Phillips, and Powell also signed off on the hiring of fundraising consultant McKenna & Associates outside of the NRA’s contract process and without going through any approval process. The NRA paid the company more than $5 million over the course of five years. For all of 2018, Powell’s wife was hired as a consultant by McKenna & Associates, and her entire $30,000 monthly consulting fee was passed through the NRA. The hiring of Powell’s wife was hidden from the NRA’s general counsel, in an effort to not draw attention to and affirmatively hide the conflict of interest, and her role was not pre-approved by the NRA board, as the organization’s policy requires. Additionally, Powell requested an NRA vendor to add his father to a rotation of paid photographers, resulting in more than $90,000 in compensation for his father, an expense which was completely passed through to the NRA.John Frazer – Corporate Secretary and General CounselJohn Frazer was chosen by LaPierre to serve as general counsel and also served as corporate secretary at the NRA. Between 2014 and 2018, Frazer repeatedly failed to comply with board governance procedures, make necessary changes, or advise others that governance changes needed to be made; failed to ensure that financial transactions were being addressed by NRA officers and directors in accordance with law; failed to enforce compliance with the NRA’s conflict of interest policy; and failed to ensure that the NRA was in compliance with laws and policies governing whistleblowers. Additionally, Frazer repeatedly certified false or misleading annual statements.Ackerman McQueen – NRA’s Public Relations and Advertising FirmA practice decades-old between LaPierre and Ackerman McQueen’s co-founder — that would continue until the two companies severed ties in 2019 — ensured that Ackerman McQueen would pay for a variety of non-contractual, out-of-pocket expenses for LaPierre and other NRA executives and pass those expenses through to the NRA. The NRA leadership regularly used this pass-through arrangement — where expenses would be paid for by the NRA without written approvals, receipts, or supporting business purpose documentation — to conceal private travel and other costs that were largely personal in nature. Ackerman McQueen would aggregate the expenses into a lump sum amount and provide no details on the nature or purpose of the expenses when billing the NRA for them. The invoices only typically included a one-line description that read “out-of-pocket expenses” and included an invoice total amount. The expenses billed to the NRA for out-of-pocket expenses did not comply with IRS requirements, and, as a result, all such expenses should have been included by the NRA in taxable personal income for LaPierre and other recipients.Ackerman McQueen was paid more than $70 million in just 2017 and 2018 for “public relations and advertising” services and for “out-of-pocket expenditures” that really went to entertainment and travel incurred by NRA executives and associates without scrutiny from within the organization, including millions for private planes, luxury hotels, memberships to private clubs, special events, fancy meals, and even personal hair and makeup services for LaPierre’s wife.NRA Audit Committee’s Failure to AuditUnder New York law, the NRA’s audit committee is responsible for overseeing the accounting and financial reporting processes of the organization and the audit of its financial statements, but the culture of noncompliance and disregard for the internal controls is evident within the audit committee. The committee failed to serve as an independent check on LaPierre, his senior staff, and the NRA as a whole, and basically served as a rubber stamp for the organization’s illicit behavior, when it did review finances.For example, the audit committee is charged with reviewing any contract that has the appearance of a conflict of interest, such as a contracts with insiders referred to as related-party transactions, and must not only perform certain considerations, but also document its deliberations. The committee routinely approved related-party transactions after LaPierre or senior staff entered into such agreements. In fact, in 2018, the audit committee approved seven related-party transactions after the fact, including a contract between the NRA’s then incoming president and Ackerman McQueen. At the time this contract was executed, the terms were known to LaPierre and Phillips, but the audit committee had no knowledge of it. Then, again in 2019 and 2020, the audit committee purportedly approved, retroactively, many other existing NRA contracts, some of which dated back 15 years.The audit committee’s chair testified during a deposition with the OAG that he had no knowledge of New York law governing audit committees, whistleblowers, or conflicts of interest, and that he could not recall the last time he had seen the audit committee charter that specifically states the audit committee “overs[ees] the integrity of financial information” at the NRA. In fact, the committee chair testified that, in his view and contrary to the charter, the audit committee had no role in oversight of internal controls and that “there is no internal auditing” within the NRA and there hadn’t been one in the whole 19 years he served on the NRA board.Unsurprisingly, during numerous occasions, the audit committee failed to respond adequately to whistleblowers, failed to appropriately review and approve related-party transactions and conflicts of interest, and failed to adequately oversee external auditors.Extensive Violations of Fundamental Not-for-Profit LawAttorney General James alleges in her complaint that the NRA violated multiple laws, including the laws governing the NRA’s charitable status, false reporting on annual filings with the IRS and with the OAG’s Charities Bureau, improper expense documentation, improper wage reporting, improper income tax withholding, failure to make required excise tax reporting and payments, payments in excess of reasonable compensation to disqualified persons, and waste of NRA assets; in direct violation of New York’s Estates, Powers & Trusts Laws; New York’s Not-for-Profit Corporation Law; the New York Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act; and New York’s Executive Law. The illegal nature of the four individual defendants’ action also violated multiple rules of the NRA’s bylaws, the NRA’s employee handbook, and the NRA’s policy manual.The failure of the NRA to comply with multiple fiduciary responsibilities and state and federal laws resulted in the NRA seeing substantial losses on its balance sheet: going from a surplus of $27,802,714 in 2015 to a net deficit of $36,276,779 in 2018 — contributing to a total loss of more than $64 million in just three years.Proposed ResolutionAs a result of all the allegations mentioned above, Attorney General James seeks to dissolve the NRA; asks the court to order LaPierre, Phillips, Powell, and Frazer to make full restitution for funds they unlawfully profited and salaries earned while employees; pay penalties; recover illegal and unauthorized payments to the four individuals; remove LaPierre and Frazer from the NRA’s leadership (Phillips and Powell are no longer employed by the NRA); and ensure none of the four individual defendants can ever again serve on the board of a charity in New York.Attorney General James began her inquiry into the NRA in February 2019.The matter was led by Bureau Chief James Sheehan and Bureau Co-Chief of the Enforcement Section Emily Stern, with a team of attorneys, legal assistants, and accountants, including Assistant Attorney General and Special Counsel of the Litigation Bureau Monica Connell; Assistant Attorneys General William Wang, Sharon Sash, Jonathan Conley, Stephen Thompson, and Erica James — all of the Charities Bureau; with additional assistance from Chief Accountant Judith Welsh-Liebross, Associate Accountant Darren Beauchamp, and Associate Accountant Charles Aganu; in addition to numerous other individuals at the OAG. The Charities Bureau is part of the Division for Social Justice, which is supervised by Chief Deputy Attorney General Meghan Faux and First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy. Share:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)
What a wonderful world! Starring John Douglas Thompson and directed by Gordon Edelstein, the one-man Louis Armstrong bio-play Satchmo at the Waldorf is set to make its New York premiere. Penned by the Wall Street Journal’s theater critic, Terry Teachout, the one-man show will begin performances at off-Broadway’s Westside Theatre February 15. Opening night is scheduled for March 4. Related Shows Satchmo at the Waldorf Show Closed This production ended its run on June 29, 2014 Most recently seen on Broadway in A Time to Kill, Thompson made his Broadway debut opposite Denzel Washington in Julius Ceasar and later appeared alongside Jennifer Garner and Kevin Kline in Cyrano de Bergerac. Other credits include Othello, The Emperor Jones, The Forest and Antony and Cleopatra. View Comments In March of 1971, one of the greatest music legends the world would ever know was performing the final set of shows he would ever play at New York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel. But the audiences who adored him onstage never really saw the man behind the trumpet. In Satchmo at the Waldorf, we encounter Louis Armstrong where few ever had the chance to see him: backstage. Reflecting on his own unlikely career amidst a rapidly changing society, the icon is stripped bare, revealing complexities and contradictions that his omnipresent smile, horn and handkerchief belied. Thompson morphs between playing Armstrong, his manager Joe Glaser, and fellow trumpeter Miles Davis. The design team for Satchmo at the Waldorf includes scenic design by Lee Savage, costume design by Ilona Somogyi, lighting design by Kevin Adam and sound design by John Gromada.
Featuring a Tony-winning score by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison, the show within a show tells the story of an agoraphobic Broadway fanatic who listens to the cast album for the 1928 musical comedy The Drowsy Chaperone. As the recording plays, the characters magically appear in his apartment. The Drowsy Chaperone opened at Broadway’s Marquis Theatre on May 1, 2006, and ran for 674 performances. The production garnered 13 Tony nominations and won four awards, including a Best Featured Actress in a Musical win for Beth Leavel. The Broadway cast also included Sutton Foster, Danny Burstein and Jennifer Smith. Star Files “We’ve got Geoffrey Rush in it, and Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway interested, and possibly Barbra Streisand,” Schepisi told The Boston Globe. “We’ll see.” These latest rumors are just increasing our excitement about the prospect of a movie adaptation of The Drowsy Chaperone. First we heard that Tony and Oscar winner Geoffrey Rush was on board, then that Tony winner Hugh Jackman was “very interested in it,” and now director Fred Schepisi has revealed that both Les Miz Oscar winner Anne Hathaway and EGOT-er Barbra Streisand could be joining the Aussie actors. View Comments Hugh Jackman