MURRAY HILL — The state Attorney General's office is investigating the founder of a Manhattan-based charity that claimed to help the storied Fighting 69th Regiment and drew ex-Mayor Rudy Giuliani, actor Gary Sinise and Knicks great John Starks to its fund-raisers, DNAinfo New York has learned.
Investigators are looking into whether Terrence Tierney, the founder of Friends of the Fighting 69th, misused some of the hundreds of thousands of dollars that his charity has raised since its inception in 2004, according to a legal filing by the Attorney General's office.
It opened the probe after receiving "several public complaints alleging that [the charity] and Tierney had misapplied donations to Friends to uses for which the contributions were never intended," according to the legal filing.
Investigators also noted in the filing that the Internal Revenue Service revoked the charity's tax-exempt status after it failed to file returns for the years 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011.
Tierney, 52, founded the charity in 2004 purportedly to support the Manhattan-based Army National Guard 69th Infantry Regiment and the soldiers' families.
Originally, the charity was named the Ancient Order for the Hibernians Charitable Gift Corporation, but changed its name in 2008 to Friends of the Fighting 69th.
The group has held fund-raisers to help troops overseas, including a $500-ticket cocktail party and dinner in 2011 at Midtown club the Grand Havana Room, where John Starks and Giuliani made appearances.
Tierney also helped coordinate a 2009 ceremony honoring fallen soldiers at the Intrepid Museum where Sinise — who played Lieutenant Dan in "Forrest Gump" — made an appearance.
The Attorney General's Office first subpoenaed Tierney in May, demanding a sitdown to discuss the charity's accounts and expenditures. Tierney responded that he would attend a June 9 interview, but then retained a lawyer and postponed the meeting, the filing says.
Assistant attorney general Michael Torrisi then warned Tierney's lawyer, Arthur Smith, several times that Tierney would need to appear for an interview on July 10. But Tierney and Smith blew off the sitdown, according to the filing.
When the meeting didn't happen, Torrisi submitted the filing in Manhattan Civil Supreme Court to compel Tierney to sit for an interview.
The "investigation to-date has uncovered evidence that Mr. Tierney may have improperly administered charitable assets and breached his fiduciary duty to Friends, squandering charitable dollars in the process," the filing says.
When reached by phone, Tierney said he didn't know of any set appointment to meet with the Torrisi, but denied any wrongdoing.
"I will be more than able to easily establish that [investigators are] making a very poor finding," he said. "The charity will be vindicated and we will show we did exactly what we said we did."
Tierney said his group sponsored homecoming events and an annual March 17 family day for the 69th's troops. The charity also provided financial support for soldiers, he said.
Tierney estimated the charity raised about $900,000. He also said he and his wife personally poured in $50,000 of their own money into Friends.
He said he stepped down as executive director of Friends in 2011 because "we didn't have the full support of the commander of the 69th Regiment."
He also said that at the time he was doing consulting work for the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, a nonprofit founded in honor of a firefighter who died on 9/11.
Tierney said the chairman of the Stephen Siller foundation told him that he couldn't work for both charities because it created a conflict of interest.
Tierney worked for the Stephen Siller foundation until October 2013, according to John Hodge, the charity's vice president.
"At no time as an independent contractor or as an employee did Mr. Tierney have any access to the money from the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation," Hodge said.
The state Attorney General's Office declined to comment on the investigation.