HARLEM—A group that has come under scrutiny for its stewardship of $150 million in funds from Columbia University's community benefit agreement with West Harlem has hired an executive director who is also a certified public accountant.
Kofi Boateng was previously the founder and CEO of Traders International, a group that facilitated trade and foreign investment between the continent of Africa and other nations.
He previously served as chief operating officer for the World Trade Center Association, where he helped bring the group to profitability from financial loss, according to the West Harlem Local Development Corporation.
"I'm thrilled to be a part of the West Harlem Local Development Corporation— an organization that will make a huge difference for the people of Harlem for many years to come," Boateng said in a statement.
State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman launched an investigation of the group after DNAinfo reported that it had spent more on consultants than programming.
Columbia has given the group $3.55 million so far, but only $700,000 has been spent at the time the attorney general subpoenaed the group. Approximately $400,000 was spent on consultants with ties to former Mayor David Dinkins, both of whom left with six-figure paydays without accomplishing much.
The money came as a concession to the community as part of Columbia University's 17-acre, $6.4 billion expansion of the Manhattanville Campus in West Harlem from West 129th to West 133rd streets, between Broadway and 12th Avenue.
Vincent Morgan, a Harlem congressional candidate who criticized the group's practices several months ago, called Boateng's hiring a "step in the right direction."
"He is clearly not a part of the political cabal uptown," said Morgan.
Combined with changes being made to the WHLDC's executive board, including pending appointments from Community Board 9, Morgan said the group is forming a strong base to accomplish its goals.
"Once they get a core group of people they will have a good environment. With an executive director in place it will be interesting to see what happens," said Morgan.
Donald Notice, chair of the WHLDC, said Boateng's experience was important.
“Mr. Boateng’s vast experience and proven track record of managing large non-profit organizations will go a long way to secure WHLDC’s role in providing services to the West Harlem community," said Notice.
Boateng holds a Bachelor's degree in economics and administrative services from Yale University and a Master of Science in professional accounting from Northeastern University. Boateng is married with seven children. He and his family live in Ossining, N.Y.