According to the complaint, Ms. Conlin, who for years was one of the most prominent advocates for women’s health in New York politics, abused her position by using more than $250,000 in charitable funds for her own personal benefit. The lawsuit charges that during her tenure as president, Ms. Conlin used charitable money to pay for shopping sprees at Bergdorf Goodman and Barneys New York, rental of a five-bedroom vacation home in the Hamptons, personal travel, the salary of her children’s nanny, dinners at New York restaurants, as well as thousands of dollars worth of take-out meals from restaurants near her home.
“Ms. Conlin betrayed the trust of NARAL’s supporters and donors by using charitable funds to finance her lavish lifestyle,” said the Jason Lilien, the Charities Bureau Chief in the AG’s office. “Our office is committed to rooting out corruption in the charitable sector wherever it exists, and we will vigorously pursue those who rip off charities for their own personal gain. This abuse of power is inexcusable, and we will hold Ms. Conlin accountable for her misconduct.”
Mr. Schneiderman himself had to recuse himself from the case, since he and his family were among NARAL’s biggest financial supporters. She campaigned frequently alongside Mr. Schneiderman when he was running for the office, even introducing Mr. Schneiderman on state after he won a hard-fought Democratic primary in 2010.
According to the AG’s office, Ms. Conlin, who was the President of NARAL Pro-Choice New York and its charitable foundation from 1992 to January 2011, perpetuated her scheme by falsifying her expense reports to conceal the personal nature of the expenses, maintaining tight control over the outside consultants who were charged with bookkeeping duties, and intimidating NARAL staff members who raised questions regarding her expense habits.
The rest of the release from the AG’s office, which includes more details about Ms. Conlin’s prodigious spending habits, is below:
According to IRS forms filed with the Office of Attorney General, Conlin’s total compensation rose steadily, reaching nearly $380,000 in 2010. Yet despite her generous salary, Conlin charged over $75,000 for retail purchases with no legitimate business purpose, including nearly $50,000 for designer clothing and shoes purchased at luxury stores such as Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman, Giorgio Armani and Bloomingdale’s. These purchases were routinely described as business-related expenses to the NARAL board, according to the Office of Attorney General’s complaint.
In addition to a $17,000 house rental in the Hamptons, Conlin also charged NARAL’s charitable foundation at least $26,000 for personal travel, $18,500 for personal hotel expenses, including spa treatments. Conlin charged over $70,000 for the use of car services for personal transportation, including at least $44,000 to transport Conlin’s children from their home in Brooklyn to school on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. In 2008 and 2009 alone, Conlin arranged for NARAL‘s charitable foundation to pay at least $12,200 of her nanny’s salary, despite there being no charitable purpose whatsoever for such an expenditure.
Conlin caused NARAL’s charitable foundation to pay no less than $50,000 in unauthorized, non-business-related meals, ranging from take-out dinners to extravagant meals at high-end restaurants, such as Daniel and 11 Madison Park, two of the most celebrated, and expensive restaurants in New York City. Included in these charges is no less than $9,600 spent on meals from restaurants close to her Brooklyn home, including 120 meals from a single local sushi restaurant from which her family regularly ordered dinner.
The Office of Attorney General’s civil investigation, which seeks to remedy violations of New York’s charities’ laws, uncovered substantial additional wrongdoing and seeks to hold Conlin fully accountable for her misconduct, require her to pay restitution and damages, and permanently bar her from serving as an officer or director of a not-for-profit organization incorporated or registered in New York State.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. last year secured a felony guilty plea from Conlin in connection with misconduct under New York State criminal law, and Conlin was ordered to pay $75,000 in restitution.
The investigation of this matter was conducted by Special Assistant Attorney General John Doyle III, with the assistance of Charities Bureau Section Enforcement Chief David E. Nachman and Assistant Attorney General Yael Fuchs, under the supervision of Bureau Chief Jason Lilien and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Janet Sabel. The Attorney General recused himself personally from the matter due to his late father’s past affiliation with the organization.