Aldon James Agrees to Pay $900K to National Arts Club in Settlement Deal
GRAMERCY — The state Attorney General's office reached a settlement with O. Aldon James resolving a $1.75 million lawsuit that alleged he ran the National Arts Club for his own benefit, according to a deal announced Tuesday.
James, who's the former president of the club, along with his twin brother, John James, and their friend, Steven Leitner, agreed to pay $900,000 to the 15 Gramercy Park South club where the trio stockpiled more than a dozen apartments, offices and other rentable club spaces at below-market rents to hoard art, antiques and junk allegedly bought with club money.
The settlement also requires $50,000 paid to the Attorney General's office to defray costs of its 18-month investigation.
The Attorney General's probe found that "James's use of NAC assets for his own benefit and failing to properly administer and maximize the NAC real estate," among other things, was a "breach of fiduciary duty," according to a draft of the settlement obtained by DNAinfo.
The statement about the real estate, however, was omitted in the final settlement in which James admitted no wrongdoing.
"[The] settlement allows the club to close the door on years of bitter discord and start to recover from the havoc that Aldon James and his cohorts wrought," Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement. "The message is clear: Those who abuse nonprofits for personal gain will be held accountable by my office."
Neither the club's lawyer, Roland Riopelle, or James' attorney, Gerald Shargel, responded to requests for comment.
Under the terms, James — who was at the club's helm for 25 years — would not be allowed to re-apply to the club for membership for five years and would have to drop the several lawsuits he has filed against the club and board members. After the 114-year-old institution began investigating James' actions during his tenure and called for his eviction, the former president sued to stop his ouster and filed other lawsuits.
The James brothers and Leitner must be out of their three remaining apartments by July 31, according to a warrant for their eviction. John James has already been spotted clearing out some of the mounds of stuff in the apartments, club insiders said.
The men would have to pay liquidated damages of $500 per apartment per day if they fail to leave on time, the draft settlement said.
The AG's office will require that the club's much-coveted apartments be made equally available to members "at no less than fair market value."
The settlement also permanently bars James and his twin brother from running nonprofits in New York, according to the deal.