Wednesday, March 2, 2011
AG To Investigate Brooklyn Yeshiva Transaction
Charities Bureau withdraws ‘no objection’ to sale of Torah Academy property.
Taking a seemingly more aggressive stand than it did in January, the New York State Attorney General has withdrawn its prior “no objection” to the sale of property owned by a Flatbush yeshiva and is now planning to investigate questions that have been raised about the proposed sale, The Jewish Week has learned.
As reported last month by The Jewish Week, the Torah Academy High School of Brooklyn, a school for Orthodox boys seeking an alternative to mainstream haredi yeshivas, submitted a required application to the Attorney General’s office last year to sell a plot of land the school owns.
After a lengthy review period, the office of then-Attorney General Andrew Cuomo registered no objections to the sale and advanced the application to a New York Supreme Court judge. Some TAB alumni, who organized to fight the sale, believed it might result in the shuttering of the school.
The application has stalled there since August, when the Attorney General advanced it to the judge, due to questions raised by the judge, the school’s founder, The Jewish Week and the TAB Alumni Association.
The judge’s questions focused on issues related to documentation provided in the application, including the sole appraisal of the property and the status of the mortgage on the property.
The Jewish Week found evidence to indicate that loan affidavits submitted with the application inaccurately characterized donations to the yeshiva as loans and, in court papers, the TAB Alumni Association claimed that “members of the Association have reason to believe that certain officers and directors of TAB have for the past several years breached their fiduciary duties … by permitting the distribution of assets of TAB to a director and officer of TAB.”
Court records also reveal that the school’s founder, Rabbi Avi Davidowitz, registered his own objection to the sale with the court.
In January, when these questions first came to light, the office of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman registered its own objections to repayment of two of the claimed loans. And it informed the judge in writing that it now had “serious concerns about the accuracy of the other representations in Torah Academy’s Verified Petition.” The AG went on to suggest that “should your Honor choose to approve the proposed sale, the proceeds be placed in escrow pending a further review of the validity of Torah Academy’s claimed debts to prevent the potential misappropriation of these charitable funds.”
Now, however, before the judge weighs in on the matter again, the Attorney General’s Charities Bureau will itself be looking into these issues.
According to a spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s office, “in light of the recent allegations and issues that have arisen since our earlier review, the office has withdrawn its prior ‘no objection’ and is actively reviewing this matter.”