NEW YORK CITY — The Department of Investigations has launched a probe into a Manhattan nonprofit after DNAinfo New York disclosed that its executives paid themselves hundreds of thousands of dollars in “bonuses” with taxpayer funds, in apparent violation of city regulations.
A DNAinfo New York investigation showed that executives at the Northern Manhattan Perinatal Partnership gave themselves $200,000 between December 2014 and last July at the same time they were failing to deliver on a $4.35 million, three-year contract to carry out Mayor de Blasio’s signature initiatives to bring community health care to city housing projects
The lion’s share of the “bonuses” went to Mario Drummonds, the NMPP's longtime director, who received $71,300, and to Diomedes Carrasco, the chief financial officer, who raked in $87,000. The bonuses more than doubled their salaries.
Taxpayer monies cannot be used for bonus payments, and particularly without notifying the city in advance, which was not done, officials said.
A spokeswoman for DOI Commissioner Mark Peters would only say that the investigative agency “is aware of the matter and declines further comment.”
But sources say the DOI has begun to request copies of contracts awarded to the NMPP from three agencies — the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Department of Education and the Administration for Children's Services.
The agencies have collectively doled out nearly $50 million in funding to the NMPP over the last 15 years, primarily to combat infant mortality rates in Harlem and help young mothers and their children. A majority of the funds came from City Council “discretionary funds.”
The NMPP also receives millions from two state agencies — the Health Department and the Office of Family and Children Services.
While it was difficult to pinpoint exactly which funds were used to pay the $200,000 in bonuses, NMPP records obtained by DNAinfo New York show that some of the money was explicitly taken from city DOH funds earmarked for an ongoing NMPP “infant mortality reduction initiative.”
One NMPP "personal action form" also shows $10,000 from an “Early Learn Program,” which was funded by the city's ACS, was paid to the nonprofit's Human Resource administrator in “3 installments, $4,000, $3,000, $3,000.”
Created in 1991, the Northern Manhattan Perinatal Partnership was formed to assist young mothers and children at a time when infant death rates in Harlem were among the nation’s highest. At its peak, it had four sites and more than 120 employees.
The city yanked its 4.35 million contact with the NMPP last November after just one year, and transferred it to another nonprofit, the Fund for Public Health, where Health Commissioner Mary Bassett is president and chairwoman of the board of directors, and which is controlled by the city's Health Department.
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s got the idea for the health initiative from a program he witnessed while he was a 26-year-old volunteer in Nicaragua in 1988, according to sources familiar with the project.
DNAinfo New York's "On the Inside" column initially reported on the NMPP in April 2014, revealing that Drummonds tried to cover up his hiring of career criminal Daniel Rodriguez — without conducting a background check — as a case manager, who immediately preyed upon the women he was hired to help, fathering a child with one and nearly costing another woman her children to foster care.